Reds in 2013: Mat Latos


For all the brouhaha the Mat Latos deal produced prior to the beginning of the 2012 season, the end result after one year’s worth of reflections is this. Mat Latos was maybe a little better than advertised. Sure, he struggled coming out of the gate, but once Mat righted the ship, he was steering straight ahead.

One aspect many thought would be a downfall of the deal would be Latos and his performance at GABP. While nary a soul would dispute some of his success was derived from pitching at Petco Park, the opposite was viewed for 2012. Well, it didn’t quite go in that direction. Here’s a look at his home/away splits for his last three seasons.

Statistics taken from Baseball Reference

While it isn’t a big surprise that Latos fared well during his days as a Padre and pitching at Petco, he did pitch well at GABP this past season. That’s something that I’ve touted for a while now. Look at his SLG for 2012. It is actually lower than his road SLG. You would think you might be looking at Johnny Cueto‘s splits here, but you’re not!

Aug 19, 2012; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Latos pitches during the third inning against the Chicago Cubs at Great American Ball Park. (Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports)

This does take into consideration that Latos allowed a greater number of home runs at home (18) compared to on the road (7), but Latos hurled 40 more innings at GABP (124.2) than away from Cincy (84.2). He adapted to his new home stadium.

How’s that? It may not be all-telling, but in 2012, Latos did allow his lowest fly ball rate of his career (36.1) while increasing his ground ball rate (45.6%). Yes, yes, yes, he did see a bit of a jump in his HR/FB (8.0% in 2010, 7.3% in 2011, 11.8% in 2012).

With the positives come the negatives. Latos has seen his FIP steadily increase from 2010 to 2012 (3.00, 3.16, 3.85). If you recall from the post on Cueto, here’s Fangraphs take on FIP.

For last year alone, Latos was between above average and average. As we begin to peer at his projections for 2013, Bill James (via Fangraphs) projects an FIP of 3.38 for 2013. As long as Latos continues to adapt to his home surroundings of GABP, that will be a positive and the HR rates might fall as James projects. A good start to the season could certainly aid there.

Since I’ve already teased you about the projections, here they are: Bill James and CAIRO.

Of note:

1. Where James sees Latos reverting back to previous HR rates (0.87), CAIRO does not (1.08). His HR/9 rate for 2012 was 1.07. CAIRO says he holds the course.
2. Both see Latos a little better in the SO/9 department. James projects a rate 8.39 while CAIRO is a little more optimistic with an 8.58 rate.
3. Both also see Latos being over 3.00 for his SO/BB ratio.
4. CAIRO may be stingy on winning percentage, starts and innings, and as stated, show the same in his HR/9, but most other rates and ratios are better than James projects.  And those aren’t bad at all.

I don’t know if there is anyone who is harder on himself when he performs poorly than Latos. That was extremely evident after Game 5 of the NLDS. If he can forget that and start 2013 better than his splits for April indicate, there’s no reason to believe numbers approaching these are possible. In fact, they could be even better and the Good Guys could (stress…could) have a pair of aces contending for the 2013 NL Cy Young Award.

A pair of aces. Hey, that’s a pretty good hand in Texas Hold ‘Em, isn’t it?

(Catch other entries from the “Reds in 2013” series:
Joey Votto
Brandon Phillips
Jay Bruce
Shin-Soo Choo
Ryan Ludwick
Todd Frazier
The Catchers: Ryan Hanigan and Devin Mesoraco
Zack Cozart

The Starting rotation:
Johnny Cueto)