Mat Latos is a repugnant human being, and he looks a thumb with a beady set of eyes drawn on it. I'll never pass up a chance to share this, either:
When I write "Mat Latos", a macro on my word processor fills that in. I know you've seen it before. Look at it again. It's uncanny.
This has been your Reds starting-pitching preview.
Okay, I suppose I should dig into it a bit more. Because here's the thing about the Reds: They're kind of built like we were hoping/thinking the Giants would be. They have a stellar pitching staff that compensates for a somewhat-middling offense. I've read more than a few quips and quotes from people around the Internet water cooler suggesting the Reds are a slugging team with a shaky rotation. But I'm not sure if that's been true for the Reds since 2005, when they had Adam Dunn and a (relatively) healthy Ken Griffey, Jr and a terrible pitching staff. Oh, and Rich Aurilia playing second base, which I'd completely forgotten for some reason.
Right now, though, the Reds are a pitching-first team. Just look at the unadjusted numbers:
Again, that's unadjusted. Now you factor in the ballparks. Don't forget that Brandon Belt would have about 20 home runs if he played in Great American Ballpark. The Reds are basically the 2010 Giants. I mean, they don't have Aaron Rowand, so they're at something of a disadvantage, but they're the pitching-first team we figured the Giants would be.
A trip through their expected rotation:
Game 1 and 5 (if needed) Starter: Johnny Cueto
He's their ace, and he's done the same thing that Matt Cain's done over the last two seasons. When a bunch of dorks complained that their peripherals didn't match their ERA, they said, "Thanks for the tip, dorks" and improved their peripherals. Cueto's walking fewer people and striking out more.
He's a little different from Cain in that he allows fewer homers, though, especially considering where he pitches. He's a groundball pitcher, but not a hyper-extreme one. He likes to throw his four-seamer high in the zone, which you'd think would lead to the occasional home run, but his two-seamer and, especially, his changeup are what keep the ball in the yard.
Dude's good. If there's any decent news to be found, it's that he was bad to start September -- he had a couple of four-inning outings that might have cost him the Cy Young. Then he went back to being awesome.
Game 2 Starter: Bronson Arroyo
He was their Zito: worthy of a spot, with an annoying contract. They even both play guitar.
Zito and Arroyo have jammed together.
Oh, damn. (Source!) The difference is that Arroyo's been pretty good for three out of the last four years, whereas Zito has been adequate for three out of the last four years. Also, Arroyo throws strikes at will, which eliminates any potential separated-at-birth conspiracies.
Arroyo's problem is home runs, so he should love pitching in AT&T. The good news is that he was kind of iffy in his final two starts.
Also of note: Arroyo's band is called Horse With No Name. So if you hate his music, bro, you hate America.
Game 3 Starter: Mat Latos
So gross. Accounting for park, he's as good has he's ever been, and that's with a dreadful start. If you exclude April, his ERA is 3.09. And remember the rap on Dusty Baker, that he ate rotator-cuff salad for breakfast, lunch, and dinner? It looks like he's been a little more careful with Latos. His season-high is 118 pitches, and that was one of only three times he went over 115. You know it's a new world when Baker's hep to keeping young pitchers rested.
This means Game 3 will probably be a Latos/Lincecum match-up. Welp. It's worked before, I guess.
Game 4 (if needed) Starter: Homer Bailey
Used to be that Bailey, Lincecum, and Phil Hughes were the top three right-handed pitching prospects in the game, and there'd be vicious message-board duels about which one was better. For a couple of years, we could act all smug. Those were good years. But Bailey had something of a breakout year in 2012, throwing over 200 innings for the first time, with a 114 ERA+.
He's also from La Grange High in La Grange, TX, which means I'll have that song in my head all day now. I guess it beats "Call Me Maybe", which was in my head before … wait, now that's back in my head, dammit. Come back, ZZ Top! Come baaaaaack!
But there's good news, in that Bailey would start his game in Cincinnati. He's like the anti-Carlos Gonzalez, completely miserable in his home park. Maybe the Giants could "homer" off of him there. Get it? His first name is the same as the short-hand term for "home run." It's a gas. I just noticed it.
The Giants usually do a little better against lefties, so it's a little concerning that the Reds are featuring four right-handed starts, but, of course, none of this matters. Good pitchers will look bad; bad pitchers will impress; things will happen that you didn't expect. This was a useless preview. It's the playoffs.
Hey, I just met you, and this is craaaaaazy. But here's my number ...