If you watched any of the Reds post-clinching celebration, you simply had to listen to the Mat Latos interview and wear, at the least, a wry smile. The most poignant part of the interview was when Latos stated he was merely trying not to be the most hated man in Cincinnati. How true that statement was.
Latos runs off the field during the NL Central clinching game. (Frank Victores-US PRESSWIRE)
During the month of April, no Reds player was more vilified than Latos. The post-trade chatter revolving around Latos being a notorious slow starter was true to form in 2012. Reds fans were none too thrilled with the early results of the “big trade” which brought Latos to the Queen City.
The trade will be continually re-visited especially whenever Latos struggles. I’ll spare you the particulars of the deal. Knowing the individuals involved is now second hand nature. After month one of the trade, the results were maybe even a little worse than had expected despite the history of Latos and slow starts.
When the calendar flipped to May, Latos picked up his game. Here’s the breakdown of Latos and his monthly splits.
In fact, if you take away April’s numbers (and I completely realize you can’t), Latos displayed numbers that are in some manner reserved for that of a staff ace: 13-2, 3.09 ERA, 1.096 WHIP, slash against: .217/.279/.370, BAbip: .257.
Mind you, not every outing was roses and sunshine. There was the bump in the road along the way, but those starts grew increasingly rare as the 2012 season passed.
The biggest concern of the move from PETCO to Great American was that of the long ball. Yes, Latos did surrender the most home runs of his career (25), but view his home/away splits…
The winning percentage was better on the road, but the vase majority of the home numbers are better than those away from GABP. All the while, Latos started five more games at GABP than he did on the road. The only “flaw” was the home runs. The SO/BB ratio was better on the road as well, but did anyone honestly believe Latos would pitch better at home than on the road? I have my sincere doubts.
We constantly hear and read of the development of Johnny Cueto as an ace and as a pitcher. We could be bearing witness to the exact same in regards to Latos. Now having three full seasons as a starter under his belt, it’s not out of the realm to say that we may still see the best Latos has to offer. In fact, I thoroughly believe we should.
As they say, the proof is in the pudding, and it applies to Latos. He did adjust his game. According to Fangraphs, Latos posted the lowest FB% of his career (36.1%) while posting his highest GB% of his career (45.6%). As Reds fans, we know that GABP will yield a homer or two that would not be the case in other stadiums. It’s fact of life we’ve learned to accept.
With Latos now hitting his arbitration years, look for the potential of a long-term deal to cover, at a minimum, those years. That’s the rumor. A deal could be something along the lines of what Cueto received prior to the 2011 season (4 years, $27 million with a team option for a fifth year). It’s not a stretch either as Latos has posted numbers better than Cueto (if you merely look at their numbers) from their first three full seasons.
Cueto: 32-32, 4.27 ERA, 1.348 WHIP, 2.31 SO/BB, 9.0 H/9
Latos: 37-28, 3.30 ERA, 1.144 WHIP, 3.18 SO/BB, 7.6 H/9
Yes, acknowledge the PETCO effect in with those stats (you must), but also acknowledge what Latos did at GABP this past season. A concern would be following up 2012 with an even better 2013…or at least the same level.
If Latos can reverse the trend of slow starts, it would add even more to his development.