Mat Latos met with considerable success last year with his fastball, slider, and curveball, but the big righty’s changeup was consistently rocked.
Latos’ fastball was .99 runs above average per 100 pitches, his slider was 2.16, and his curve .83, according to Fangraphs’ Pitch Type Linear Weights.
That’s very strong, and if it weren’t for his changeup, Latos would probably have put up a sub-3.00 ERA last year. The changeup, which he threw 11.8% of the time, was a horrific 4.03 runs below average per 100 pitches.
This year, Latos has signficantly altered his pitch selection.
Year Fastball% Slider% Curveball% Changeup%
2009 66.5 4.1 17.6 11.8
2010 62.8 16.6 0.3 20.3
At first glance, you’d think this explains Latos’ 6.20 ERA. If the changeup is easily his worst pitch, throwing it nearly twice as much would be borderline suicidal. It does appear that Latos recognized the slider as the better of his two breaking pitches, although his curve was too good to cut out like this–he should at least occasionally use it.
However, the increased use of the changeup, shockingly, has nothing to do with Latos’ struggles.
Latos’ slider has stayed excellent, working at 1.82 runs above average per 100 pitches. On the rare occasion he breaks out the curve, it’s been phenomenal, at 7 runs above average.
The changeup has done a complete 180 this year, registering 1.08 runs above average, an improvement of more than five runs over 2009. The culprit of Latos’ issues is the fastball, which has taken a huge step back, registering 2.40 runs below average,a 3.39 run drop from last year.
It appears that Latos improved the changeup quite a bit over the offseason, which resulted in him trusting it more and getting better results. If he can figure out the fastball now, he should be dominant from here on out.
As for the fastball’s issues, Latos has lost .6 mph from last year, but he’s still working at 92-95 mph, so he’s got plenty of velocity. The pitch has some late cutting, riding life–he’s added a bit of cut and lost some ride this year, but nothing out of the ordinary.
For now, I’m going to chalk the fastball’s struggles up to small sample size, but we’ll see what happens as the season progresses. Hopefully the changeup stays excellent and the heater comes around.