Is there a more frustrating fantasy option than Mat Latos right now? Drafted as one of the better starting pitchers in the league, Latos has been given run support in each of his last two outings but was unable to hold on for the win. In his start on June 2 he failed to make it out of the fourth inning despite a huge lead and last night he allowed 4 R (3 earned) over 6.1 innings after being handed a 4-0 lead.
A notoriously slow starter, Latos just hasn’t seemed to be able to get things fully on track this season:
59 Strikeouts (7.73 K/9)
25 Walks (3.28 BB/9)
A lot of people are going to point to his departure from Petco Park as the reason for his struggles. When you look at the home runs allowed, with a 1.70 HR/9, the claim certainly appears to hold water.
Of the 13 home runs he’s allowed this season 11 of them have come in Great American Ballpark. Then again, 5 of them came in one game against the Rockies (and those were all solo home runs), so the numbers is slightly skewed. Eye opening, yes, but it’s not completely catastrophic.
His ERA has actually been worse on the road (6.12) than it has been at home (4.12), though the BABIP and strand rate splits are polar opposites as well:
- Home – .238 BABIP, 85.5% strand rate
- Road – .384 BABIP, 58.2% strand rate
In other words, it’s hard to rate him based on home/road splits because there is nothing “normal” in either of them. It’s simply one end of the spectrum vs. the other. We always say a player isn’t as good as he looks at his best or as bad as he looks at his worst. Therefore, we need to take his total numbers to try and detect what the issues are.
Besides the increase in home runs, his control and strikeouts are the issues. His strikeouts are down, currently sporting a 7.73 K/9. However, he has shown signs of righting the ship. After a 5.56 K/9 in April, he jumped his number all the way to a 9.79 in May. While the April number was disturbingly low, it has always been the worst strikeout month of his career:
- April – 7.13
- May – 8.45
- June – 8.87
- July – 8.72
- August – 7.94
- September – 10.25
With his fastball still averaging 92.7 mph, we need to stay patient in this regard. The strikeouts should be there, he’s already proven that.
His control has been another issue, currently with a 3.28 BB/9. With a minor league BB/9 of 2.29 and marks of 2.44 and 2.87 over his first two full years in the Majors, this is another number that you would suspect would rectify itself in time and has nothing to do with his home ballpark.
Yes, there’s a chance that he allows more home runs playing in Cincinnati, but it is still way too early to panic on him. He’s had these poor starts before, but always seems to turn things around (in 2011 he had a 4.04 ERA in the first half and 2.87 in the second). I can understand moving him to the bench, depending on your other options, as he simply hasn’t been good and his upcoming matchup with the Indians next week is far from a lock for a good outing. I wouldn’t completely cut bait, however, and sell low on him. There is way too much upside and chances are he gets things turned around before long.