by Mike Rogers

UPDATE: Unfortunately, as I was doing this this evening, I mistakenly lumped Latos’ curveball’s in with his change-up’s. I have since fixed this, and re-written the paragraph on his change as well as penned one on his curveball. Whoops.

I’m just going to get this out of the way: I did not see one single pitch Mat Latos threw, unfortunately. I was busy and missed both his abbreviated outing in the Future’s Game, as well as his Major League Debut last night against the Colorado Rockies.

Here’s what I know about him: he can throw the baseball. Hard.

These graphs are made possible by Harry Pavlidis and his Pitch Flight tool.

First up, are the release points. Click on both images to enlarge.

That y-axis is in feet. That means, Mat Latos is “releasing” (data’s actually recorded 50 feet from home plate, I believe, so it’s not “true” release point) the baseball from nearly 7 feet in the air. He’s a big boy as it is, and his tall-and-fall mechanics lead to an even higher, over the top release point.

Now, on to the PITCHf/x flight path graphs. What this shows me is the movement of each of his pitches on its way to home plate. This sort of thing is hard to read for some people, so I am willing to answer any and all questions on it later tonight.

The Fastball (the green line) — 56 of his 70 pitches recorded by PITCHf/x were fastballs and all were coded as 4-seam fastballs. He averaged 94.9 MPH on them. From the graph, I see a very straight heater which is what I saw when I graphed out his Future’s Game performance on the message boards over at Project Prospect. I don’t see a lot of downward movement on his fastball from this outing against the Rockies, either, but coming from such a high release, I’m sure it’s difficult to hit. Ideally, though, you’d like to see a fastball that bends or sinks more than Latos’ does.

The Change-up (the red line) — Latos has a big time arm, but I think his secondary offerings are where his bread is buttered. He threw just one change-up and it clocked in at 82.2 MPH. It came from a lower release point (1st base view) than his other three pitches, but that’s likely because he threw just one of them. Good dive on it and a decent amount of tailing action.

The Slider (the yellow-ish line) — He threw only 8 of these at an average velocity of 82.5 MPH. He’s got a little sweeping action on it (bird’s eye view) and has a lot of downward movement, as well. Both his change-up and his slider compliment his fastball extremely well due to their similar release points, but both dive well below his fastball. I really like both of these offerings much more than his fastball.

The Curveball (the blue line) — He threw five of these averaging 81.8 MPH. It seems very 12-6 but with good drop on it. It comes from the same plane and arm slot as his fastball and follows it pretty well, but it’s kind of slurve-y which leads me to believe that his slider and his curveball are the same pitch, just classified differently by gameday. I’ll defer to Harry Pavlidis’ week New Arms Roundup on Beyond the Boxscore this weekend.

Conclusion

First off, I need to say that there really aren’t any “conclusions” from his outings that were recorded by PITCHf/x. He threw just 8 pitches in the Future’s game and then another 70 last night. That sample is too small to draw any hard conclusions. However, it’s enough to give a decent hypothesis on Latos and his stuff. He’s got the tall-and-fall mechanics with a clean arm action and they seem to be repeatable. Some have panned his mechanics but that’s likely due to not being a fan of the tall-and-fall motion. Alex Eisenberg over at Baseball-Intellect said he’s not a fan of tall-and-fall but that he doesn’t see a red flag from Latos, despite that motion.  I trust Alex’s opinion and some others in the Project Prospect forums have expressed opinions similar to Alex’s: not a fan of that style of pitching (would prefer drop-and-drive), but for what it is, it isn’t overly cringe-worthy.

His stuff features a big time fastball in velocity, but I’d like to see him throw more 2-seamers as his 4-seamer is very straight in both horizontal and vertical movement. His breaking ball and his change-up are great compliments to it — it’s easy to see why Latos’ stuff is heralded. Now, if he can only stay on the field.

Edit to my conclusion: I am not sure what exactly type breaking ball he throws, but they seem to be very similar.

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