|Latos should be pitching Game One of the playoffs.|
If there’s one thing that has annoyed me and indeed many, if not most, Reds fans about the Dusty Baker era, it has been his lack of flexibility toward his roster.
We’ve seen it time and again with such notable examples as the roles (and spots in the lineup) of guys like Corey Patterson, Willy Taveras and currently Drew Stubbs remain unchanged despite their obvious detriment to the team. He seemingly always refuses to ‘think outside the box,’ to change things up until they become painfully obvious to everyone.
This really is not meant to be another bash Dusty column (get well soon).
However, it seems like Dusty and Reds management are in danger of perhaps short-circuiting their playoff run before it ever begins. And it’s all because once again, Dusty seems unwilling to break the mold he’s cast for his roster.
It hasn’t been officially announced yet, but the Reds have all but set their postseason pitching rotation. The team will likely set a rotation of Johnny Cueto, Bronson Arroyo, Mat Latos and Homer Bailey for the Divisional Series.
That rotation, in my opinion, is quite possibly the worst the team could settle on.
Dusty is letting his old stubborn ways cause trouble again. Cueto has been the number one starter since Opening Day, so therefore he must start Game One, right? Somewhere in the annals of baseball history a wise man said – ‘Thou must not put hard throwers back-to-back’ and as such, Cueto and Latos must have the crafty vet Arroyo between them, right? Bailey is clearly the least accomplished pitcher of the rotation, so he comes last to take his turn, right?
Wrong on all accounts.
|Bailey has earned our trust. Away from GABP.|
First and foremost, to not start Latos in Game One seems tantamount to suicide. The Reds’ prized off-season pick-up has been everything the team thought they were getting since mid-summer. Since June 18, Latos has posted an ERA of 2.52 over a span of 17 starts. Only Seattle’s Felix Hernandez has been better over that time period. How many managers would relegate someone with Latos’ stuff and the way he’s been pitching for the past three months to Game Three and only one possible appearance in the series?
To add to it, if the Reds face San Francisco, as they would if the season ended today, they would be playing in AT&T Park in Game One. Latos’ numbers there? Oh, just a 1.67 ERA in 43 innings pitched by the bay in his career. He’s also 2-0 with 16 scoreless innings against the Giants this year. Sounds like a Game One starter to me.
In Game Two, I’d go with Bailey. Not because he’s necessarily the second-best pitcher on the staff, but for two very important reasons. First off, Bailey has been on fire. Throw away his last start on the night after Clinchmas against the Dodgers and Bailey has worked 6.1 innings or more with two earned runs or less in five out of his last six starts. Even with the clunker last Sunday, his September ERA is 2.52.
The biggest reason for throwing Bailey in Game Two? Keep him out of GABP.
Everyone knows Bailey struggles at home, but just how different a pitcher is he on the road? Away from home, Bailey has an ERA of 2.63 this season. At GABP, it balloons to 5.16. Throwing him at home in the playoffs is just asking for trouble.
I’d slate Cueto in Game Three. Regardless of how the first two games go, knowing that a potential 20-game winner is set to go in the third game would be a tremendous confidence builder for the Reds.
One might argue that pitching the Reds ace for much of the year in the third game is crazy. The real number Dusty should think about, though, is 5.08 – Cueto’s ERA in September.
He’s looked noticeably tired and has not had his best stuff in weeks. He’s already pitched 25 innings more than he’s ever thrown in his career and while I’d argue he should have had a start or two skipped this month, that’s neither here nor there now. The point is, he’s been pitching like the Reds third-best starter – and should be slated as such in the Divisional Series. To make the decision easier, he’s actually pitched better at home (2.79 ERA) than he has on the road (2.86). That makes the decision to pitch Bailey on the road and Cueto at home all the easier.
That leaves veteran Arroyo for Game Four and opens up Latos for a possible Game Five. It seems like a no-brainer when the numbers are considered. Sadly, the numbers don’t seem to be key in Baker’s roster composition past or present.
That may lead to an early exit from this year’s playoffs.