Latos’ Early Struggles Against Lefties

For the past year and a half the Padres have ransacked the continent looking for major league starting pitching. Mark Prior’s caviar didn’t work out, Walter Silva failed, and numerous trades and bargain bin acquisitions netted them with little to show thanks to injuries and ineffectiveness. When all else failed, the Padres turned to 21-year-old Mat Latos. A draft and follow selection from 2006 out of Broward Community College in Florida, Latos shot through the Padres system, reaching Double-A for nine starts before jumping to the majors.

Latos’ performance thus far has been mixed. His ERA and win-loss record reflect a rookie sensation and the closest thing the Padres have to a phenom. A FIP over 5 does not. The relative good news for Padres fans is an unsustainably high home run per fly ball ratio of 16.7%. Fly balls are a common result when batters make contact with Latos’ pitches, but he’s pitching in PETCO and there’s no reason to believe he’s more prone to a higher HR/FB% than any other fly ball pitcher.

When watching Latos, the first thing you’ll pick up on is his outstanding fastball velocity. Pitchfx data has him touching 97.9 MPH with an average velocity of 94.6. He brings the fire each and every time out. The pitch buzzes in to righties and at those speeds seems destined to break a few bats. Right now he’s using it about three-fourths of the time, with a slider and change thrown in the rest of the time.

What’s interesting about Latos to date is his platoon split. Small sample size caveat applies heavily, but righties are hitting .091/.118/.273 against him while lefties hit .273/.360/.545. Remarkably lefties almost have a higher on-base percentage than righties do OPS. So what does Latos do against lefties, or rather, what doesn’t he do? Generally you hear about young right-handed pitchers not working in to lefties or simply being unable to without inciting a fire. As the graph below shows, he favors away, but he seems willing to go inside on lefties.


Of course being willing and being able are two different things. I took all 38 ‘inside’ pitches (described as further ‘in’ than the middle of the plate) out of his 110 pitches total against lefties and looked at the results. Here’s how they tallied up:

18 balls (2 in the dirt)
3 called strikes
9 fouls
3 swinging strikes
2 grounders
2 fly balls (neither were homers)
1 liner

Obviously this is a wider slice of the zone than you would like, and basing the idea that Latos can indeed go inside with success off 30-something pitchers is flawed. Up until now though, Latos’ problems exist away against lefties, not inside.

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10 Responses to “Latos’ Early Struggles Against Lefties”

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  1. MDS says:

    sample size too small. you crying about lefties having a sub .600 OPS vs him?

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  2. Clipper says:

    Ummm MDS, that’s his slug pct, not his OPS.

    His right/left splits were pretty drastic in the minors too, I would have included that in the article- just basing it off the ridiculously small MLB sample is a joke.

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    • j reed says:

      I think the author acknowledges the limitation of the sample size…”Small sample size caveat applies heavily…” Furthermore including his minor league data in the study would have introduced bias into the sample since the conditions are different in the minor leagues i.e. less talented less experienced batters. The major league is the last stop on the train and such the parameters describing the sample are closed. Using the minor keague records might be possible with a Bayesian approach. Although, then again, with a system of ranking prospects in place, using the minor league record in the sample might not introduce this bias.

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  3. Chris says:

    25 PAs against lefties.


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  4. Chris says:

    Just for perspective, turn ONE of the HR he allowed into an out and his slashline goes from




    if the margin of error between having a point and not having one is a single plate appearance, your sample size is probably a little too small.

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  5. Greg says:

    This was an interesting “early catch” by the author, but nothing more…… It really didn’t merit a post. That being said, Latos will be shut down after five or six more starts. The study will have slightly more importance at that point. As it sits.. frankly the observation is nothing more than a curiosity and borders on a waste of time.

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  6. Dirk says:

    Too small a sample size I think . . .

    I saw Latos pitch tonight against the Braves, and by my count he held the lefties to 2 hits in 16 at bats with 2 walks. One of the hits was a HR by LaRoche.

    BUT, his minor league splits this year would support your analysis – against RH in 24 innings he allowed just 11 hits for a .131 avg., but against LH in 22 innings he allowed 21 hits for a .253 avg. Again, not a very big sample.

    Time will tell, but he sure gives us something fun to watch – used his off speed stuff a lot tonight, as his fastball didn’t seem to hit any higher than 94.

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    • Chris says:

      Dirk, there was a big split in the minors, but I’d hardly say he struggled against lefties. More like he eviscerated righties and was merely good against lefties.

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