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Fantasy Face Off: Luis Castillo vs. Shane Bieber

Who’d you rather have in fantasy baseball next year?

Getty Images/Pete Rogers Illustrations

Welcome to the first face off of the 2020 fantasy season. If you were searching for a movie starring John Travolta and Nicholas Cage and are stumbling upon this article, you are in luck. That is because this will also leave you on the edge of your seat wanting more. However, our leading characters here are Shane Bieber of the Cleveland Indians and Luis Castillo of the Cincinnati Reds. I just wrote an article linked below with my starting pitcher rankings for 2020:

Everyone has their opinion and I can see one ranking that is contentious is Castillo over Bieber as people have been asking “what do you mean” and wanting me to explain myself ranking Castillo eighth overall among starters. If you were searching for Justin Bieber’s hit song “What Do You Mean” and are stumbling upon this article, you are in luck.

Here is a a quick comparison between the two starters:

Player Face Off

Stat Shane Bieber Luis Castillo
Stat Shane Bieber Luis Castillo
ERA 3.28 3.4
WHIP 1.05 1.14
IP 214 1/3 190 2/3
K 259 226
BB 40 79
K/9 10.88 10.67
K% 30.20% 28.90%
BB% 4.70% 10.10%
SWSTR% 14.00% 15.90%
GS 34 32
Wins 15 15
QS 24 20
SQS 8 5

What you can see above, at first glance, favors Bieber. Also, you are probably asking what a SQS is. Well, the answer is it is a stat and I’ve made it up.

Some items that are not obvious that favor Castillo are:

  • Swinging strike rate is superior and, if he can close the gap on innings, strikeouts can be comparable. Likewise, Castillo struggled down the stretch and if he can build up more stamina in the coming years to throw around 200 innings he would stand to benefit. I believe this can happen as soon as 2020.
  • Bieber has the superior control, but Castillo’s walk rate was his highest in his three seasons. If he can achieve a BB% closer to 2017-2018, he can close ground in WHIP.
  • Castillo had the same number of wins with tougher opponents.

Let’s look back at SQS. What is this? A QS is a quality start which is at least six innings pitched and three or less earned runs. A SQS or super quality start is a quality start that meets at least one of the following criteria:

  1. Complete game
  2. Minimum 7 innings and zero earned runs
  3. A quality start with at most two earned runs and at least 3 more strikeouts than innings pitched.

Gerrit Cole had 18 super quality starts as a side note. Disgusting. Bieber had eight and Castillo had five. These are not easy to come by. Compiling these super quality starts are what really make pitchers elite. It has been noted that the American League Central is an easy division to pitch in—the easiest in fact. This begs the question if Bieber is exploiting his division.

Three of Bieber’s super quality starts came against his division: Detroit (2), Minnesota (1). Minnesota is not a weak team. However, the other five were against Toronto (2), Baltimore (2), and the LA Angels (1). The answer is yes, Bieber exploited weak teams.

Castillo’s SQS composition was San Francisco, San Diego, Miami, Milwaukee, and Los Angeles Angels. Not a list of bruising teams either, but not as obviously bullying weak opponents.

Focusing on Bieber’s schedule, he will get Detroit again, but he’s not assured two starts against Baltimore and Toronto every year. He did not fare well against the White Sox within the division and they will be a strong offensive team in 2020.

Of Castillo’s 32 starts, only 11 were against opponents with a record under .500, where he was 7-1 with a 2.92 ERA and 1.02 WHIP. His other 21 starts were against winning teams where he went a respectable 8-7 with a 3.67 ERA and 1.21 WHIP.

Bieber on the other hand started 33 games with 19 against opponents with a record under .500. He exploited these teams to a tune of 11-3, 2.36 ERA and 0.88 WHIP. Here is where it gets ugly—versus winning teams he was 4-5 with a 4.80 ERA and 1.34 WHIP. Bieber had such a large chunk of his innings against inferior opponents. Compared to Castillo, Bieber had a far easier schedule. I am not saying this is unsustainable, however.

Let us get a bit more granular. I will remove just the Milwaukee Brewers (including his super quality start!) and Colorado Rockies from Castillo’s season. These two teams are known to be offensive forces in hitter’s parks. Castillo would have been 14-4 with a 2.93 ERA and 1.09 WHIP with the removal of just those two opponents.

OK, you probably saw this coming but, let me do the opposite for the Biebs. I am going to give him the benefit of the doubt and let him have the Tigers every year. However, I’m just going to remove his four starts against the awful Orioles and Blue Jays. Bieber would have been 12-8 with a 3.85 ERA and 1.18 WHIP. Just for fun, if we excluded the Orioles, Blue Jays, and Tigers, he would be 10-8 with a 4.09 ERA and 1.23 WHIP. That looks an awful lot like Aaron Nola in 2019. Just saying.

I still have Bieber as a top 10 pitcher, but give me Castillo in this face off.


Who won this face off?

This poll is closed

  • 41%
    Luis Castillo
    (20 votes)
  • 58%
    Shane Bieber
    (28 votes)
48 votes total Vote Now