Why Latos is good (it’s not just his stuff)
Mat Latos is good. The Arctic is cold. Paying taxes sucks. I wish I took Patricia to the prom.
Enough with the obvious.
I wanted to know why the kid is mowing guys. By the way, did you see Latos go and vent to Buddy Black in the dugout between the 3rd and 4th innings Sunday? After Latos and Buddy spoke, the kid went back out and retired 9 of the next 10 hitters he faced. That’s rad.
Before we get to Latos’ skill-set, here’s something to keep in mind as Latos makes his final 7, 8, 9(?) starts. He won’t win the Cy Young this year. Adam Wainwright and Josh Johnson are arm wrestling over the hardware right now. But consider the following: Of the statistically top 5 pitchers in the NL this year, Latos compares well:
Wins – tied 5th
ERA – 5th
Opp. BA – 1st
WHIP – 1st
K/9 – 6th
Where am I going with this? Latos may very well be setting himself up for a Cy Young NEXT year. I know, it seems I am putting the cart before the thoroughbred. However, if Latos finishes in the top 5 in Cy Young voting, which is completely possible, he then gets his name out there for baseball writers, talk show hosts and pundits to see. Just like a 97 MPH inside fastball on the hands that gets your attention, Latos is establishing his “brand.” He is forcing guys to know his name and his stuff. So when he goes out next year and DOESN’T have a crappy April (like this year) he then gets the buzz he would not have ordinarily gotten. In the words of… well… I’m not sure who said it, but… “I’m not saying, I’m just saying.”
Back to what makes Latos.. Latos. I spoke with an analyst who speaks to scouts on a regular basis. They gave me 3 things to watch for, that makes him do what he does. You may want to watch for these the next time he pitches, as well.
1) changing the batter’s eye-level. You hear that on TV a lot. Here’s what the scout said it means… if a pitcher is working both sides of the plate, that’s great. You can confuse the batter that way. However, changing the eye level means working the top and bottom of the zone. Hitters have to “throw” their hands at a pitch, without seeing where their hands are at the time (since they are watching the ball on its way in). When they throw their hands, they have to trust they are on the same plane as the ball. When a pitcher is constantly working down – down – down in the zone, the batter can predict what plane the ball will be on (even if its inside or out), so he can throw his hands with a pretty good idea where they need to go. When a pitcher works up and down, the batter is confused, ever so slightly, where to throw his hands. It was described to me as trying this: turn your head all the way to the left, all the way over your left shoulder… with your left hand, throw a tennis ball in the air and try to hit it with your right hand…. you can’t see your right hand until the very end of the exercise, so its very hard for your hand-eye coordination to function. Of course, in order to be able to pitch like this you can’t make mistakes up in the zone, so very few pitchers have the courage to do this…. which brings me to….
2) he has an attitude. Watch Paul Maholm pitch for the Pirates. You’ll know what I mean. Latos has a swagger that enables him to throw pitches the batter would never expect. Watch the next time he needs a strike, and see if he doesn’t throw an off-speed pitch. That takes gumption to turn to your 4th best pitch when you know the batter knows you need a strike. Dude has courage, and faith in his stuff.
3) he adjusts. Going back to the Buddy Black conversation from Sunday. Latos was getting squeezed by the home plate umpire… he was nibbling and never getting any calls. So, what did he do after that? He started working elsewhere in the zone, rather than in those places the umpire was squeezing him. Folks, that Greg Maddux-type stuff.. which is scary.
And, all due credit to Geoff Young a Ducksnorts who dug this up, but Latos is better at this point of his career than Peavy was. Is he Peavy? No.
Latos might be better.