There are only so many players that become available who are such perfect fits for a team. It’s the sort of match made in heaven that you can only dream on. Get your hopes up too much, and it might not happen. For the past year or so, Luis Castillo has been exactly that for the New York Yankees. We’ve covered it here at PSA already this month, and if you’ve read any of the pitching deep dives I’ve done this season, you know the Yankees and Brian Cashman are infatuated with outlier pitches.
Marinaccio, King, Holmes. The list goes further than that. Each of these pitchers has something special about them that allow them to have great success. Luis Castillo’s identity as a pitcher is all about his outlier skills. The unique mechanics produce unique pitches. He himself is a unicorn on the mound.
When it comes to high velocity, we typically think of pitchers like Gerrit Cole, Justin Verlander, and Shohei Ohtani. Ya know, the kind of pitchers with mechanics on the more normal side with a three-quarter to straight over the top release. For 99 percent of the human race, this is the most ideal way one can throw. But Luis Castillo isn’t normal. He is different.
Watching him pitch never gets old to me. His arm slot is wildly unique in its own right. When you add the velocity, it gets even more special. The reason why high velocity throwers typically have closer to high arm slot is because of the plane they create with their shoulders when their throwing arm hits its peak. It’s most ideal for the ball and plane of the forearm to match that of the shoulders. Castillo maintains his high level of velocity because his torso stays flat throughout his windup and his arm matches it as he releases the pitch. The only other pitcher I can think of that is similar is Max Scherzer, but he doesn’t throw as hard as Castillo and gets way more extension.
Speaking of extension, the Reds fireballer doesn’t get much since he never gets much torso bend at any point in his delivery. To be exact, he only throws 5.5 feet away from the mound. For somebody standing over six feet tall with long arms, I’d expect him to throw at the very least six feet away from the mound. Somebody who wasn’t paying attention would tell you this is not good!
Pitchers with great fastball shape usually get that shape from extending far down the mound. It lets them stay on top of the ball for as long as possible and release the ball closer to the ground than average and create that nice, pure back spin. Think of Brusdar Graterol: he is another high velocity thrower with below average extension. His fastball has poor shape and it’s the main reason he is a sinker baller.
For Castillo, it doesn’t matter. His vertical approach angle (VAA) on his four-seam fastball is near the top of the league at -4.1 degrees. While throwing from his low slot with little extension, he still creates a great shape. The combination of those factors is a big reason why he leads starting pitchers in whiff% on four-seamers. It’s nearly unhittable due its unique properties.
All that said and I haven’t even said a word about his changeup. This dot on the corner completely fooled Judge. It’s a great location and probably looked very similar to one of Castillo’s fastballs till it fell off the face of the earth. If you look at the movement on the pitch, you’re probably confused at why it is as good as it is. However, movement isn’t always the most important factor of a changeup. If you recall from my piece on the rookie Marinaccio, you’d remember his changeup is a unicorn because of the combination of horizontal approach angle (HAA) and extension in addition to the movement. The same holds true for Castillo.
His HAA rivals that of Marinaccio’s at -1.0 degrees, and the pitch plays perfectly with his sinker. That’s another tidbit about changeups. The way it plays and tunnels with your fastball is often very important, and if it plays well, it validates throwing a pitch like Castillo’s sinker which doesn’t have great qualities or batted ball outcomes.
Lastly, there is the gyro slider. Again, it’s not a special pitch on its own, but the way it plays with the rest of Castillo’s arsenal is crucial. Sometimes, all you have to do is give a hitter a different look to make sure they can’t sit on one of your two elite pitches. I think you get the point though. Luis Castillo is special.
We try to have some foresight when considering trade targets. Sometimes it’s all rumors and sometimes it’s legit. It can be hard to sift through what’s what. In this case, Castillo is an analytical dream for Brian Cashman. The information I’ve presented to you validates that as fact. Now, we have to cross our hearts and hope Cashman is willing to part with the pieces to bring Castillo to the Bronx where his personality and performance on the mound will flourish.