After an offseason trade that sent Edinson Volquez, Yonder Alonso and Yasmani Grandal to the Padres, the Reds ended up with Mat Latos. As a strikeout pitcher who is by no means a flyball pitcher, it was debatable excatly how much Latos would struggle leaving the friendly home of Petco Park. The switch has been worse than anyone could have predicted so far, but is Latos doomed to be a mediocre pitcher in a home run park?
|Mat Latos (US Presswire)|
Through 15 starts this season, Latos has been almost the exact same pitcher as before when you break down his numbers. His velocity is the same, as well as his strikeouts and walks per inning pitched. He still has a ratio of groundballs to flyballs that is close to one.
The only difference is that this season Latos has given up 17 home runs in 15 starts, while he gave up 16 long balls in 31 starts last year. The season before, he gave up the exact same 16 home runs in 31 starts.
The problem clearly is Great American Ball Park, as his home park accounts for 12 of his home runs compared to just five on the road. His teammates have suffered the same fate, with only Johnny Cueto among the starters having a HR/FB rate under 10 percent.
The team as a whole has suffered from higher HR/FB rates since calling Great American Ball Park home. The league average has been down the past few years but still around 10 to 11 percent each year. The Reds pitchers, though, have had to deal with a higher rate. Since 2009, their rate has only been below 12 percent once.
All of this would make an expectation of Latos’ HR/FB rate returning to his “normal” range—or even the league average—tough to predict. His xFIP stands at 3.92, which is up a bit from his career level of 3.58. That 3.92 is probably still out of reach since that projects a HR/FB mark of 11 percent.
It’s difficult to see anything else besides home runs being a problem for Latos this season. His movement is right in line with historical data, as well as his velocity. The only pitch that stands out as a concern might be his sinker or two-seamer depending on the Pitch-f/x classification. According to Fangraphs, it has been costing the Reds 3.36 runs for every 100 thrown.
That pitch historically has been his worst for home runs with a HR/(FB+LD) rate of 12.5 percent, but in 2012 that rate now stands at 17.9 percent. Seems like something he should cut back on, as it had been average before but is terrible in the new park.
If Latos could stop throwing the two-seamer without making any other changes, he could perhaps improve his numbers, even with the overall home run troubles still hanging around. In the end, he still wouldn’t be anywhere near his numbers in San Diego. The Reds gave up a lot to add Latos as a rotation anchor and have to be a bit disappointed what they have received so far, but to have expected him not to struggle would have been short sighted.