The Padres won their 35th game of the season this afternoon and pulled within a half game of the Los Angeles Dodgers for the NL West Division lead. A big part of their success this season has been young starter Mat Latos, and Latos had another fantastic start today, striking out eight batters and only allowing two runs in the 4-2 victory.
Latos didn’t induce quite as many whiffs as he normally does in this start. In 97 pitches today, Latos drew seven swinging strikes. That 7.2% mark is 2.7 points below his mark for the season. Latos made up for it by spotting his pitches excellently, particularly on his strikeout pitches. Take a look at this pitch location graph from Brooks Baseball.
The black squares denote strikeout pitches. Latos “painted the black” on four of the eight strikeouts, and was towards the edge of the zone on two more. His location was excellent, which likely allowed him to keep eight of the nine balls hit in the air in the park. He did allow his 9th home run of the season, but the Padres offense was able to scrape together enough runs to win the game, despite four double plays.
The slider has been the big out pitch for Latos this season, with a +8.3 pitch type value and nearly +3 per 100 thrown, a fantastic mark. It was excellent once again, as he drew four swinging strikes and had a pitch type value of +1.3 with only 34 sliders thrown.
Latos entered this start with a 3.89 FIP, 3.79 xFIP, and 3.07 tERA, slightly outperforming his CHONE and ZiPS projections entering the year. Given his stuff – a 92-95 fastball and the hard slider – its unsurprising that the 22 year old has taken a step forward this season. ZiPS still projects him at a roughly 4.00 FIP, but in PETCO Park there’s a good chance that Latos can maintain the sub-3.50 ERA he brought into today’s game. The Padres have to love what they’ve seen from him so far this year, and he figures to be a big part of any potential playoff run this season.