In 2011, Reds starting pitchers went a combined 50-54 with a 4.47 ERA. They finished third in the NL Central. The off-season mission: sending out an SOS–starting pitching, please.
I think the Reds overpaid for Mat Latos, but not because of Grandal or Alonso. They were obviously expendable because both have major players starting in their position. I really didn’t like to see Boxberger leave; he would have been a welcoming worthy of the fatted calf for a Reds bullpen that finished 3rd in walks.
But the major switch that I’m sure Walk Jocketty was thinking about was Edinson Volquez for Mat Latos. A brief look at their numbers side by side:
Volquez Career: 4.65 ERA 33-29 W-L 479 SO 1.50 WHIP
Latos Career: 3.37 ERA18-15 W-L 413 SCO 1.15 WHIP
On paper, it’s a huge upgrade. At a closer look, it’s a colossal one. You may see the amount of walks each pitcher issued last year and assert that both are about equivalent in that area. But Latos did toss about 86 more innings than Volquez. And for baseball’s 10th most taxed bullpen, the Reds will welcome a pitcher of 200 innings or more a year.
Volquez pitched 108 innings last season and gave up 16 dingers. He had an affinity for giving them up in pairs. Latos tossed 194 innings and only gave up 19. Both pitchers are fastballers that bring gas. But the biggest difference between the two flame throwers is that opponents only hit Latos’ fastball at .240, where they touch Volquez’s up for .291. Reds fans all witnesses to that.
When Latos doesn’t want to challenge someone, he has a nasty slider he goes to when he’s ahead in the count. He’ll throw that slider 20% of the time when he’s up. Volquez threw the slider about 5% of the time. At a venue like Great American Ball Park, a slider serves pitchers a lot better than the change-up, which Volquez turned to 35% of the time when up in the count.
The only similarities that bothers me is the mental aspect. Scouts everywhere have commented on the maturity of 24-year-old Latos. A buddy of mine from college who is a die-hard Giants fan can recount several times when Latos has exchanged words with his Giants mid-game. He said he’s been known to get flustered and start missing his spots. Yet Edinson Volquez could do an instructional video on that exercise. So it’ll be up to Brian Pryce to ensure Latos keeps his cool.
Everyone knows Latos was a huge upgrade for the rotation. But really consider the difference in production by adding Latos and removing Volquez. Cincinnati just became deadly in a three game series.
The 2011 Reds Opening Day starter had a 2011 ERA of 5.71. It’s no wonder the 2011 Reds finished with a record of 79-83.