Cincinnati's Luis Castillo Received No Support In Six Starts Versus Milwaukee
Four teams that were in contention for a playoff spot until the final week of 2021, each of which came up just short, could point the finger at one arm in its starting rotation. For whatever reason, each club had a pitcher who fared miserably in multiple matchups against the team that finished just in front of it.
The worst record against a single opponent last year belonged to Cole Irvin, the ace of the third place Oakland Athletics rotation. Although his overall numbers were barely mediocre, a 10-15 record with a 4.24 earned run average, Irvin really struggled against the second place Seattle Mariners.
Five times Irvin took the mound against his American League opponent, and he lost all five games with an embarrassing ERA of 8.69. Given that Oakland finished just two games behind Seattle, had Irvin been able to win just one of those five starts the teams would have finished with identical records.
Speaking of the Mariners, their reason for coming up just short for playoff qualification could be traced to one arm. Right hander Yusei Kikuchi made six starts against the first place Astros, losing four and winning none with a 5.64 ERA.
His futility against Houston resulted in not only his team being eliminated on the last day of the season, but also his overall record being under .500. Kikuchi finished 7-9 with a 4.41 ERA, mediocre numbers due in great part to his inability to get outs against the lineup of the eventual American League Champions.
A late season contender in the Senior Circuit fell victim to a similar fate, as one of its starters had absolutely no success against the team in front of them in the standings. Cincinnati had arguably one of the best rotations in the league, but its ace simply could not get it done against the eventual champs of the N. L. Central.
In six starts against the Milwaukee Brewers, right hander Luis Castillo lost all three decisions. Unlike his counterparts in the junior league, the former All-Star actually pitched better against the Brew Crew than many of the other teams.
His 2.87 ERA against Milwaukee was nearly a run lower than his overall 3.72, but an unfortunate lack of run support victimized Castillo. Had Cincinnati hitters fared just a little better against the Brewers, at least enough to allow Castillo to win at least a third of his starts against them, the Reds would have ended up earning a Wild Card berth for the second straight year.
While New York probably would not have made the postseason even if Taijuan Walker fared better against the Phillies, the third place Mets might have stayed in contention deep into the season. Unfortunately, in five starts against the second place Phillies Walker went 0-3, even though his 3.86 ERA against Philadelphia was better than his overall mark of 4.47.
Like in the case with Castillo and the Reds, for some reason the Mets just could not muster any runs when Walker pitched against the Phils. Had he managed to win even a third of those starts, the Mets would have stayed close on Philadelphia's heels instead of finishing five games behind them.