Looking at Mat Latos

Apr 29, 2012; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Latos (55) is pulled from the game by Dusty during the 7th inning against the Houston Astros at Great American Ballpark. The Reds defeated the Astros 6-5. (Photo: Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports)

For a guy that carries the reputation of being a slow starter, Mat Latos has taken the corner, turned and obliterated it thus far in 2013. Anyone could sift through the numbers, pitch data, and what other means of data you have at your disposal to determine the rhyme and reason behind such early season positive results. And, to an extent, that’s the chosen path here.

Last April would be one that had Reds fans howling about the four-for-one deal which brought the now 25-year-old from San Diego to Cincinnati. With 2012′s April being what can only be termed as a buzzkill, the deal was looking more and more like one like one to already throw in the round receptacle. Comparisons to the Josh Hamilton trade where people talk about that as being the worst trade in Reds history – actually, it was the Frank Robinson deal – were noted on many an occasion.

That trade will forever be dissected, I know.

But Latos has started out in just the opposite fashion in 2013.

Pitch Usage and Contact

Not a ton of explanation is needed for what you’re about to see.

April 2012

Type Count Percent Strike Swing Whiff Foul In Play Swing Foul In Play Contact
FF 198 40% 66.7% 47.5% 5.6% 23.2% 18.7% 94 46 37 88.21%
SL 93 18.8% 57% 47.3% 18.3% 12.9% 16.1% 44 12 15 61.31%
FC 62 12.5% 71% 45.2% 1.6% 22.6% 21% 28 14 13 96.46%
CH 55 11.1% 69.1% 52.7% 7.3% 14.5% 30.9% 29 8 17 86.15%
FT 45 9.1% 62.2% 55.6% 0% 31.1% 24.4% 25 14 11 99.82%
CU 42 8.5% 57.1% 31% 7.1% 11.9% 11.9% 13 5 5 76.77%
495 233 99 98 84.48%

April 2013

Type Count Selection Strike Swing Whiff Foul In Play Swing Foul In Play Contact
FF 139 27.4% 71.9% 51.8% 5.8% 24.5% 21.6% 72 34 30 89.00%
SL 123 24.3% 62.6% 48.8% 17.9% 14.6% 16.3% 60 18 20 63.32%
FC 106 20.9% 71.7% 49.1% 10.4% 26.4% 12.3% 52 28 13 78.82%
FT 68 13.4% 70.6% 47.1% 5.9% 13.2% 27.9% 32 9 19 87.26%
CU 52 10.3% 59.6% 48.1% 19.2% 13.5% 15.4% 25 7 8 60.08%
CH 19 3.7% 52.6% 36.8% 5.3% 21.1% 10.5% 7 4 2 85.87%
507 248 100 92 77.42%

While the overall contact rate is lower for this April in comparison to last season’s first five starts, there are a few notes to take away from these two tables.

A better mix of Latos’ pitch selection is a prominent and glaring notation. Less use of the four-seamer and change, but an uptick in use of his slider, cutter, two-seam fastball and curve. What might also jump out at you is the decreased contact in regards specific pitches, namely the Latos cutter, two-seam fastball and curve. All three of these pitches show a substantial reduction in contact rate.

Pitch Results

Again, look at this table comparing April 2012 to April 2013.

At-bat Results Apr. ’12 Apr. ’13
Single 17.32% 16.03%
Flyout 17.32% 12.21%
Groundout 15.75% 16.79%
Strikeout 14.17% 25.19%
Walk 7.87% 3.82%
Lineout 6.3% 6.87%
Double 6.3% 4.58%
Pop Out 4.72% 3.82%
Home Run 3.15% 2.29%
GIDP 2.36% 2.29%
Sac Bunt 1.57% 1.53%
Forceout 1.57% 0.00%
Runner Out 0.79% 0.76%
Triple 0.79% 0.00%
Field Error 0.00% 1.53%
FC Out 0.00% 0.76%
Bunt Pop Out 0.00% 0.76%
Bunt Groundout 0.00% 0.76%

I have this table here because of one reason. MLB is a results-oriented league, right? Comparing how Latos fared in his first five starts this year to those from last year’s is a night and day revelation. A higher percentage of strikeouts, lower walk rate, lower HR rate, and I could go on and on about Mat’s early season success as it relates to these results. The proof is in the pudding here.

And speaking of results, how’s this. In viewing the slash against for Latos…

April 2012: .307/.363/.500
April 2013: .244/.273/.366

And to further display the positive results…

Split W L ERA G GS IP H R ER HR BB SO BF WHIP SO/9 SO/BB
Apr. 2012 1 2 5.97 5 5 28.2 35 19 19 4 10 18 126 1.57 5.7 1.8
Apr. 2013 1 0 2.16 5 5 33.1 30 11 8 3 5 33 130 1.05 8.9 6.6

Again, there is honestly no comparison other than subscribing to the yin and yang here.  Sure, there’s the difference in runs and earned runs, but comparing the total number of runs allowed reflects the very subject which we are covering.

We could easily look at all the pitch information and the movement of each pitch along with the spin rate and velocity of those, but I think the following two images display such a little better.

April 2012

(Source: TexasLeaguers.com)

April 2013

(Source: TexasLeaguers.com)

Do you see how much better movement Mat has on almost every pitch? Hardly anything looks like it’s left out over the middle of the plate. Granted, there are occasions where that does (and will) happen, but Latos’ ability to not throw such pitches is serving him rather well, thank you very much.

Yes, all of this is based off only five starts, but the difference between the Latos of April 2012 and the Latos of 2013 is a difference the Reds drastically need. Even more so with Johnny Cueto currently on the shelf.

Are we truly seeing the guy the Reds traded four players to get? Maybe more importantly, are we seeing Latos evolve into ace #1A? Your thoughts…

A little reminder. If you do not have your TEAM LATOS T-shirt, you can still get one. Mens sizes L through 3XL are still available. If you would like to purchase one, head to BRM’s Xtras page. All the information regarding the T as well as a coupon code in which you can save $5 off the list price are there. A link to the site in which to place your order is there so you don’t have to search a million things in order to get there.

All pitch information was taken from TexasLeaguers.com. All statistical info was derived from Baseball Reference.

Topics: Cincinnati Reds, Mat Latos

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