Saturday, September 22, 2012

Latos has been worth the price for Reds


There were high expectations entering the 2012 season for Mat Latos. Most of those expectations were derived from the cost it took to acquire him. Many thought the Reds gave up too much for the right-hander when the team shipped four players (Yonder Alonso, Yasmani Grandal, Edinson Volquez, Brad Boxberger) for his services back in December. Others were concerned with how he would adjust to pitching in hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park as oppose to pitcher-friendly PETCO Park. And still others expressed concern about his alleged maturity issues.

As impossible as it seemed for him to live up to the lofty expectations this year, Latos has somehow managed to not only hit the mark, but go well beyond it as well. GM Walt Jocketty felt Latos was worth the price because he was confident that he could fill the no. 2 starter role that the club was so desperately missing in years past. And the former 11th round pick (2006) has done exactly that for Dusty Baker's squad in '12. He's been the missing piece to the rotation that the Reds have been searching for.

The right-hander will make his 31st start of the campaign when he takes the hill against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday. Through his first 30 starts, he's compiled a 12-4 record, 3.76 ERA, 1.204 WHIP, and 2.76 K/BB. His 171 strikeouts lead the team and his 7.9 H/9 ratio is the lowest among Cincinnati's starting rotation.

And for those who were concerned about how he would adjust to GABP, here's his home and away splits for the year:

Home: 17g, 7-3, 3.53 ERA, 7.2 SO/9, 2.51 K/BB
Away: 13g, 5-1, 4.07 ERA, 9.4 SO/9, 3.07 K/BB

As you can see, he's actually fared noticeably better at home, which likely has a handful of sabermetrics folks scratching their heads right now. Nonetheless, Latos seems to be thriving with his new organization.

But times weren't so peachy for the young flamethrower back at the end of April. He was facing tremendous heat and pressure from the fan base for his poor early-season performance. What many failed to realize however, is that Latos has a track record of being a slow starter and this year was no different.

Lucky for the Reds, the 24-year old has gotten better as the season's wore on, just as his career splits would indicate. He's boasting a second-half ERA nearly one run less (3.30) than he sported during the first half (4.13) of the season, and has gone six innings or more in nine of his last 10 starts. He's lost just one decision since July 18th over a span of 11 outings. And although he got off to a rough start during the first month (5g, 5.97 ERA, 1.570 WHIP) he's gone 12-2 with a sub-3.30 ERA ever since.

The fact is that he's been a solid no. 2 behind Johnny Cueto and still has oodles of potential for growth. He's under team control through the end of 2016 and remains relatively inexpensive based on his production at his current salary of $550k. Yes, the future is bright for Mr. Latos. But for now he'll focus on the present (Dodgers) with a watchful eye for what lies ahead, which should include his first career trip to the postseason just around the corner.

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