Mat Latos

September 8, 2010

Way back in early April, I traveled to Brooklyn for a night of baseball, beers, and balcony (his view is pretty much this) with my Denverite friend. As C.C. Sabathia flirted with a no-hitter against Tampa Bay, I asked my friend who was pitching for the Rockies against the Padres. “Hammel,” he said. My reply: “Cool. You guys should be okay, as long as Latos isn’t going for the Padres. He could be pretty good.”

He was. And he is.

I couldn’t help but think of that moment as I watched Mat Latos destroy the Dodgers last night in San Diego. Sure, the Dodgers have a pathetic offense. They rank 12th in the National League in OPS, and that’s including the contributions of the departed Manny Ramirez. Even worse, manager Joe Torre seems intent on driving that ranking downward, consistently batting the slaptastic Scott Podsednik leadoff, the punchless James Loney third, and the relatively potent Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp in bottom half of the lineup. This is all to say that while Latos wasn’t exactly facing the 1927 Yankees, last night’s performance may well have shut down any lineup in the game. It wasn’t just dominance. It was an evisceration.

Ever since the Padres shocked the baseball world by going 30-20 in their first 50 games, I’ve been telling anyone who has had the displeasure of my company that they weren’t for real, that they would eventually lose the division to the Rockies. And while I recently decided that the Giants will win the division instead of the Rockies (although they aren’t totally cooked yet), my opinion has been obnoxiously consistent since late May: the Padres’ overachieving starting pitching and consistently impotent offense would eventually catch up to them. That has, to an extent, turned out to be true. Their recent 10-game losing streak has put them neck-and-neck with the Giants in a thrilling pennant race.

Still, it would be utterly stupid to count out the Padres at this point. Their record is 78-59 on September 8th, so we are given little choice but to accept that this is a good baseball team. But if the Padres are going to succeed – if the Padres are even going to make the playoffs – they are going to need to rely on Latos’ powerful right arm. Latos is an obviously different breed than the rest of the Padres’ starters. His fastball consistently hits 94 miles per hour. Everyone else’s sits at 90. Batters swing and miss at 11% of his pitches. They whiff on everyone else’s 7-8% of the time. Latos strikes out nearly 10 batters per nine innings. Everyone else strikes out between six and seven. Latos doesn’t need a good defense or a spacious home ballpark to thrive. Everyone else needs both. The Padres’ rotation really is Latos and everyone else. He is cut from a different cloth.

Of course, it’s not as simple as just turning Latos loose in September. He is not C.C. Sabathia or Roy Halladay or any other veteran with the freakish durability that permits such an aggressive tactic. No, Latos is a 22-year-old with 162 innings on his arm after throwing 122 combined innings across three levels in 2009. Were the Padres not in a pennant race, he would have been shut down by now. The Padres themselves hinted at a 150-inning limit for Latos in 2010. But circumstances change, the Padres have much to play for, and Latos’ boundaries have clearly been stretched, if not re-drawn entirely. I’m sure the Padres organization has a new plan in place for Latos given the unexpected success of the team. I don’t know what it is – as far as I know, it hasn’t been advertised – but I’m sure it’s there.

It’s odd, but for the first time ever, I’m echoing the old baseball guard and hoping that that plan is to push Latos hard down the stretch. Even with my antipathy towards the whole “back in my day, pitchers threw 250 innings every year,” medically-ignorant mentality, I think there’s something to be said for taking the reins off Latos in order to secure a playoff spot. Read the rest of this entry »


Hey Kids! Let’s Ridicule Mr. Met!

September 30, 2007

The Mets have just completed the biggest collapse in New York baseball history (2004 ALCS doesn’t quite count – small sample size). Time to celebrate!

I Don’t Believe What I Just Saw (Washed-Up Mariner Edition)

September 27, 2007

Never thought events would transpire to lead Special K (or anyone knowlegdable about baseball) to say, “Joel Pineiro > Pedro Martinez.”

9/27/07 STL@NYM

WP: Pineiro, 8 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 15 Groundouts, 3 Flyouts
LP: Martinez, 7 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 8 K, 3 Groundouts, 10 Flyouts

I know we have no stake in this anymore, but God, I love beating the Mets.

Funny story: Baseball Prospectus’ Nate Silver just did a list of the worst collapses in history. If the Mets choke this up to the Phillies, it will be the second biggest of all time. Have fun this weekend, Queens.

Hoping for that mythical five-way playoff in the NL,


May 7, 2007

I like this kid the Yankees signed to shore up the rotation. He’s going places.*

But some people are understandably bitter about this development. Some people like Bill Simmons, of ESPN’s Page 2. Here’s Simmons’ list of rationalizations for not being upset:

1. There’s finally a villain on the 2007 Yankees. Just like the good old days. I was tired of talking myself into despising A-Rod and Posada.

Clemens may in fact hold a grudge against Boston ever since Dan Duquette’s “twilight” comment (the baseball equivalent of the guy who initially turned down The Beatles because “guitar groups are on the way out”). And I can’t tell if Simmons is serious about despising the other two. If so, the villains are poorly chosen: Posada? Really? He seems like a pretty nice guy. He was even in that stupid “Sportscenter” commercial with Ortiz. And Rodriguez would be Boston’s starting shortstop right now were it not for the Players’ Association vetoing the deal (that greedy asshole). Did Simmons forget about the more recent betrayal by Damon? That’s some mighty good villainy.

2. Since he didn’t sign with Boston, I wasn’t put in the position of (A) having to boycott his starts,


and (B) feeling constantly sick because so many Red Sox fans would have been perfectly willing to forgive him if he came back. This would have been awful. I would not have handled it well.

Points for honesty. Imagine the gloating the Faithful would inflict on New Yawkuhs had the deal gone the other way. Actually, don’t. I can’t wish that accent on anyone.

Now I get to look forward to the possibility of Clemens pitching in Fenway in three weeks while the entire crowd chants, “H-G-H! H-G-H! H-G-H! H-G-H!” Much better.

That’s the worst you can come up with? (Full disclosure: I was one of the goons who chanted “Noah’s ugly!” on a live national television broadcast.)

3. He burned his bridges with yet another city (Houston). Love when that happens.

I’m okay with this one. He can’t pitch against the Cardinals now, unless it’s in October (lolz).

4. Watching the inevitable “Brokeback Mountain” parody trailer on YouTube with Clemens and Andy Pettitte. It hasn’t happened yet, but you know it’s coming.

Gay jokes. Awesome. I’m particularly irritated that two good male friends must be subjected to “Brokeback” references, not just because it’s not funny, but because it flies utterly in the face of everything for which the movie stands. But I digress.

5. If he’d signed with Boston, between Dice-K Mania, Beckett’s quest for 30 wins and the return of the greatest Red Sox pitcher ever, Curt Schilling might have snapped from a lack of attention — we could have seen him break a baseball bat over a Japanese photographer’s head just to grab the spotlight again. Glad we avoided this.

Haha, well, Schilling is a whore for attention (non-bloody-sock-related). But Beckett will not win 30 games. And wasn’t there a pretty good Red Sox pitcher during the deadball era? Shit, what was his name?

6. Honestly? I don’t think Clemens will be that good for the Yanks. He turns 45 in August and he’s been pitching in an inferior hitting league for the past few years. Physically, it just doesn’t add up. He’s defying the career paths of every other pitcher in the the history of baseball … I mean, even a freak of nature like Nolan Ryan started to break down in his mid-40s. How is Clemens still chugging along? How? I just feel like the odds of Clemens either breaking down or becoming involved in a massive scandal seem to be much greater than the odds of him continuing to be an elite pitcher. And if he stinks … it’s going to be glorious. Just glorious.

I can’t take offense at this. Clemens is the biggest outlier in pitching history, so most predictions about his performance will have to be taken with a grain of salt and not too harshly judged when they are wrong. Still, it’s a bit smug to take such pleasure thinking about a man’s inevitable decline.

7. The Yankees’ clubhouse is already fragile enough … now they’re adding a guy who abides by his own sets of rules, flies back home after every start, drags his kids around with him like Michael Jackson and comes and goes when he pleases? Sounds like a recipe for disaster, doesn’t it? If he struggles out of the gate, the Yankees’ fans will turn on him faster than the WWE fans turning on John Cena during a pay-per-view.

No. I’m pretty sure Brian Cashman went out of his way to make sure Clemens’ priveleges wouldn’t rile his teammates. They won’t. Clemens will also mentor young pitchers like Hughes; and by all accounts he was a strong and supportive teammate during his first five years in the Bronx (read Olney’s book “The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty”).

8. We’re coming closer and closer to my dream of Clemens’ Hall of Fame plaque featuring a cap with a dollar sign on it. I feel like it’s a genuine possibility at this point.

Boo, capitalism! Hooray, beer!

9. The Red Sox spitefully giving No. 21 to someone else this season, preferably the worst pitcher on the team. In fact, I vote that they bring Rich Garces back, feed him burritos until he passes the 400-pound mark, then squash him into a No. 21 jersey and hire him as the bullpen coach.

I don’t – I’m not sure – I – what? Someone was stretching here. This is why I support making a list only as long as you can fill it. Check out next week’s special entry, “Keesup’s Top Six Songs About Baseball.”

10. Looking forward to an entire season of e-mails like these …

Hey, kids! All five stages of grief are visible in the following e-mails. Can you spot them all?

RC in Guatemala City: “So let me get this straight … we’re supposed to be scared of the Yankees hiring a 45-year-old fat dude with groin problems? Really?”

Jason T. in Maine: “I’m happy Roger is going to the Yankees. Trying to bring him back to Boston made me feel like Forrest Gump at the end of the movie. You know, when Jenny, the used-up coke fiend, came back to Forrest to die of AIDS after screwing half the continent. After the last two series, the amount of hate for the Yankees, at least in my heart, was in serious decline. Now I feel reinvigorated, full of hate for all things pinstriped.”

Gary in Somerville, Mass.: “I thought you were nuts last year when you were openly hoping that Roger didn’t come back to Boston. But after he dangled himself in front of the Yanks, Sox and Astros AGAIN this year I snapped out of it and realized that some things just aren’t worth another championship. That grotesque display today IN THE MIDDLE OF A GAME told me I made the right choice. Am I the only one that finds this Clemens/Pettitte thing more than a little odd? I can imagine that when Roger told his wife that he was going back to the Yankees she had the same look on her face that Michelle Williams did when Heath Ledger told her he was going ‘fishing’ with Jake Gyllenhaal.”

Are Red Sox fans really this homophobic?

John F. in Kansas: “This is historic … who ever heard of a rat jumping ON a sinking ship?”

Sinking ship? The Yankees have the best offense in baseball and they’re only five games out on May 7. Fuck you, John F.

To be honest, I just think it’s really cool that I get to keep watching the best pitcher of my lifetime, especially on a team that isn’t in Texas. I don’t see how his exceptional treatment is “ruining” baseball; the Astros set the precedent for allowing the pre-season waffling and extra off days. We’re only six weeks in, and Clemens will make the AL East race that much more interesting.

*Cooperstown, New York.

The Central Concern: Will The Cubs Really Be That Good?

February 18, 2007

Hey you. Yeah, you, the casual Cubs fan on the North Shore who doesn’t actually bother to follow the Cubs unless they’re within five outs of the World Series (WHOOPS!). I’m talking to you.

I know you’re still recovering from your ill-fated fling with the Sex Cannon, but it’s time to move on. Lucky for you, pitchers and catchers reported to Mesa this week.* And Cubs GM Jim Hendry had himself quite an offseason.

*Except this one. Dumbass.

He smartly opted not to resign Dusty Baker as manager (he funneled too much of the budget into toothpicks and apparently doesn’t like his team to have baserunners), instead hiring Sweet Lou Piniella, a former Yankee with a winning managerial record and a great reputation. Solid move, and I can’t wait for potential fireworks between him and Tony.

Then Hendry had himself a bit of a spree, jacking the Trib Company’s credit card to the tune of $300,000,000. Yeah. Three hundred million. Seven (7) zeroes. Shopping list: Alfonso Soriano, Ted Lilly, Mark DeRosa, and Cliff Floyd. (Oh, and don’t forget to grab some Jason Marquis.) Never mind that in six years they’ll be paying a washed-up 38-year-old some odd $18 million: this is clearly Hendry’s make-or-break run at a title. And it seems most of the media and fans have fallen for the ruse, as the Cubs have been annointed the clear favorites to win the pathetic NL Central in 2007. The Pirates are bottom-dwellers, the Reds come up short, Houston has shown decline, and the Brewers are still a dark horse. Gotta be the Cubs. Wait, there are six teams in the division? Who’s the other – oh, right.

Last year the Cardinals won the National League Central with an admittedly embarassing 83 games. There’s a good reason for this: everyone on the 25-man roster was injured by the end of September. Not really, but it seemed like it. Now the Cardinals have seemingly stood pat as the entire rotation filed for free agency. Cards GM Walt Jocketty resigned the whole bench, found a real everyday second-baseman, and grabbed the best cheap pitching he could find, essentially planning to field the same team as last season. Jocketty has never been one to grab big free-agents in the winter, instead perfecting the crafty, how-the-fuck-did-he-do-that mid-August trades that have procurred such formidable thumpers as Mark McGwire, Jim Edmonds, Will Clark, Scott Rolen, and Larry Walker. But now he was expected to defend the title. Couldn’t he have done something?! He saw what the Cubs were spending. Stupid, awful, mean Jocketty. He must hate the fans in St. Louis.

So let’s unbunch our collective panties and ask – how will the I-55 rivalry shape up this year? Obviously a lot of random, crazy shit can happen in a 162-game season. But we can make a reasonable guess. To the PECOTA cave!

Part One: The Hitters
2007 VORP, WARP and EQA projections in parentheses

Catcher: Yadier Molina (2.2, 3.3, .233) vs Michael Barrett (26.4, 3.7, .278)
No question Barrett is the superior established hitter. Still astounding that Yadi’s glove/arm make WARP that close though.
Advantage: Cubs

First Base: Albert Pujols (81.4, 9.2, .349) vs Derrek Lee (23.4, 4.1, .295)
This used to be a much closer match, but Lee is in decline (2005 was a peak, not a new plateau. Pujols, meanwhile, continues to improve a little each year. He looks like the new (better) Hank Aaron for whom consistency is king, but if he peaks, how scary will it look?
Advantage Cardinals

Second Base: Adam Kennedy (15.3, 3.5, .259) vs Mark DeRosa (13.3, 2.7, .265)
Both olderish guys moving from AL West to NL Central, so I wouldn’t be surprised if these estimates are a tad conservative. Kennedy’s line-drive swing is suited to the larger Busch Stadium.
Advantage: Draw

Third Base: Scott Rolen (40.9, 6.4, .298) vs Aramis Ramirez (46.0, 5.5, .299)
It’s a statistical dead heat. A-Ram has more power in hitter-friendly Wrigley; Scotty is one of the best fielders ever.
Advantage: Draw

Shortstop: David Eckstein (14.5, 3.8, .247)vs Ronny Cedeno (9.1, 3.5, .237)
The Spark Plug is hardly an ideal lead-off man, but Cedeno probably shouldn’t bat in any of the other eight spots.
Advantage: Cardinals

Right Field: Juan Encarnacion (11.3, 2.6, .262) vs Jacque Jones (12.3. 2.8, .270)
Tony favors experience and may do so at his team’s peril this year. Coming off wrist surgery, Juan may get shown up and hopefully benched in favor of the surprising John Rodriguez.
Advantage: Cubs

Center Field: Jim Edmonds (22.3, 3.9, .289) vs Alfonso Soriano (43.9, 6.1, .296)
The most interesting match-up so far. Soriano is the jewel centerpiece of the Cubs offseason, rewarded for a career year in which he joined the 40-40 club (one of those 40’s is ALOT more important). Despite being wildy overrated, and playing out of position again, he may singlehandedly push the club into contention (and will be paid more than Pujols). Jimmy Baseball, on the other hand, is in the twilight of his career, and while there’s no better place for that than St. Louis, he will be seeing less and less playing time. But he’ll still be good for some pop, defense, and clubhouse presence (for you traditionalists out there).
Advantage: Cubs

Left Field: Chris Duncan (22.5, 3.4, .290) vs Cliff Floyd (15.8, 2.9, .282)
It remains to be seen whether Duncan’s tear last August can be consistently recreated over a full season. Hope he did some outfield work, but I have a feeling he’ll be a productive Cardinal for years to come. Floyd, less so – his Achilles problems in Queens were a blessing in disguise as they benched him in favor of postseason near-hero Endy Chavez.
Advantage: Cardinals

Cardinals Totals: 210.4, 36.1 .278
Cubs Totals: 190.2, 31.3, .278

Looks like the Cardinals have a slight statistical edge for now. Can the Cubs make up for it by having more than one starting pitcher? Find out tomorrow!