Johnny Cueto
2012 Pitching Line: 217 IP, 170 K, 49 BB, 2.78 ERA
2013 Projection: 215 IPs, 180 K, 60 BB, 2.90 ERA

2012 WAR: 4.8
2013 Best Guess WAR: 4.5
Projected Difference: -0.3
2013 Ceiling: 7.0
2012 Floor: 2.0

Mat Latos
2012 Pitching Line: 209 IP, 64 BB, 189 K, 3.48
2013 Projection: 215 IP, 190 K, 65 BB, 3.20 ERA

2012 WAR: 3.1
2013 Best Guess WAR: 4.0
Projected Difference: +0.9
2013 Ceiling: 6.0
2013 Floor: 2.0

We have now entered the part of the program where I project pitchers. I hate projecting pitchers. They can get hurt at any time. They are often wildly inconsistent. It’s no fun. But I’ll do my best. Please do note that all projections (including the floor projections) assume no injuries.

There are few teams in baseball who have reason to feel as comfortable at the top of the rotation as the Cincinnati Reds. A few years ago, typing that sentence would have gotten thrown into the loony bin, but here we are.

One of the striking things about Cueto and Latos is how similar a lot their numbers could end up looking. Latos will strikeout a few more than Cueto and walk a few more, but there isn’t that big of a difference between them. So why the ERA discrepancy? There are a couple of reasons.

First, Cueto has shown a real ability to suppress home runs. At least, I’m going to assume it’s an ability until he proves me wrong. Additionally, Dave Cameron at FanGraphs has found that Cueto is very, very good at stopping the running game. It’s reached the point where he’s impossible to run on in such an extreme way that it decreases his run expectancy in way that doesn’t show up in projections. These little things are what keep Cueto a tick above Latos, but it really is just a tick.

I am very excited about Mat Latos. We all know about his rough start and enough people have pointed out the pitch-selection changes he made to make me think it shouldn’t factor into this year’s projections. Take out April and his ERA is 3.10. That’s fancy. If that’s what we can expect from Latos going forward, the Reds are in for a real treat.

Both of these pitchers are young. Both of them are good. If they stay healthy, both should keep being good for a while. There’s no reason to think they won’t be a big part of the Reds winning the central this year.

Redleg Nation Season Preview Schedule

Joey Votto – 2/27
Brandon Phillips – 3/1
Todd Frazier – 3/4
Zack Cozart – 3/6
Ryan Ludwick – 3/8
Shin-Soo Choo – 3/11
Jay Bruce – 3/13
Ryan Hanigan & Devin Mesoraco – 3/15
Bench – 3/18
Johnny Cueto & Mat Latos – 3/20
Aroldis Chapman & Mike Leake – 3/22
Homer Bailey & Bronson Arroyo – 3/25
Bullpen – 3/27
Updates & Preview Wrap-Up – 3/29

Jason has been a fan of the Reds since he was born. He really had no choice in the matter. He has been writing at Redleg Nation for a few years, and also writes and edits at The Hardball Times. His debut novel, When the Sparrow Sings, is available now and concerns baseball, among other things. You can find more information at

Join the conversation! 29 Comments

  1. I share your enthusiasm for Mat Latos. It wouldn’t surprise me if he has a better year than Cueto.

  2. You may hate to project the pitchers, but this is the part I love to read about. With Cueto and Latos emerging as a 1 and 1A tandem, Homer’s last half of the 2012 season, and Bronson’s Bronsonness, 80% of the rotation looks swell. However, I’m really looking forward to your projections to be published on the 22nd. On second thought, perhaps you should flip flop the Chapman/Leake projection with the Bailey/Arroyo projection (in the event that “the decision” has not been released to the public prior to the 22nd).

  3. Last year I was worried that 2011 was a fluke for Johnny Cueto, with his dominant performance. I was happy that he showed in 2012 that he can be a Cy Young contender for a whole season. The remaining concern I have is my perception of him as being injury prone, and I hope he can get past that this year with another 200+ inning performance… and staying healthy for the playoffs. Wins might be a meaningless statistic but, at the same time, a 20 win season is sort of like a benchmark for ace pitchers… and I really hope Cueto achieves that this season.

    I wonder what effect a catcher will have on Cueto and Latos, and how their starts will be split between Hanigan and Mesoraco. I think we know that Hanigan will catch for Arroyo again, but everything seems pretty uncertain. I doubt Hanigan will catch the firs three games of the season, I don’t know if that indicates Mesoraco will become Mat Latos’ personal catcher?

    I agree with DrewMac that Friday seems like a great day to talk about Bailey and Arroyo. Aren’t Leake and Chapman scheduled to pitch again on Friday afternoon, with a yet to be decided number of innings? That should be telling.

  4. The starting pitchers as a group give me the most concern for 2013. Projecting individuals on the assumption of good health is probably the only way to do it, but it fails when we extend that reasoning to the group. Last year’s experience of NO ONE MISSING A TURN simply can’t be expected to repeat. I don’t see how we will not see a tailing off in starting pitching this season.

    • @spokanechicago: You are correct. I don’t know if you remember last year’s previews or not, but in the wrap-up, I introduced an injury correction when projecting the entire team. I plan to do the same this year.

  5. Since we are now beginning the discussion of SP, I took a gander at the rotations for the Reds and their direct competition in the NLCD. I have to say…this is so scary that I stopped after the Birds since I believe the consensus has the Birds as the strongest competition for our Reds. Here are the 2012 results for the anticipated 2013 starting rotations in the NLCD:

    Cincinnati Reds

    2.78__1.17___217___8.5___3.47 => Cueto
    3.48__1.16___209___7.7___2.89 => Latos
    3.68__1.24___208___8.9___3.23 => Bailey
    3.74__1.21___202___9.3___3.69 => Arroyo
    4.58__1.35___179___10.1__2.83 => Leake

    St. Louis Cardinals

    3.67__1.30___169___8.3___2.81 => Lynn
    3.74__1.41____91___9.5___1.84 => Kelly
    3.92__1.36___121___10.___3.27 => Garcia
    3.94__1.25___198___8.8___3.54 => Wainwright
    3.97__1.39___174___9.8___2.04 => Westbrook

    • @Shchi Cossack: I’m not particularly concerned about the Cardinals’ rotation for the 2013 postseason – I doubt Jaime Garcia can stay healthy all year, and who knows how he’ll be in October? Lance Lynn collapsed in the second half last year, and they might have the same concerns about Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal, Joe Kelly, or any of the other young starters they choose. Personally I think things will get tougher for the Cardinals as the season progresses, and the young starters get past 100 innings pitched. The Reds, on the other hand, start the season with 5 guys who are capable of pitching full seasons without wearing down. I think that’s big.

      • @redsfanman: Absolutely, yes. My point was scary good for the Reds. If the Birds are the stiffest competition for the Reds this season and their starting rotation is that shaky, they could find themselves plucked very early. The health of their lineup is pretty shaky too. Poor little Red Birds…

  6. This is what I like about this site. I would have attributed much of Cueto’s success merely to an ability to induce ground balls in front of great infield defense. But Jason has that nugget about his ability of stop the running game cold right there for us.

    Cool. Thanks.

    Can’t wait for Part II. Comment section go boom.

  7. As long as they stay healthy, I see these two still being fine. I would foresee a bit better season for Latos, and maybe not as good for Cueto, but still decent.

  8. This post has been up for over two hours and mine is only the 7th comment. Friday, my guess is by 2 hours into Friday’s part 2 there will be 5 times as many.

    Jason, you are the man.

    • @TC: Yeah, the comments will probably be fast and furious on Friday. The thing that is starting to bug me is I think that everyone already has an idea of where everyone else stands on that debate. So, I’m hoping that the comments will be about the projections and not turn into yet another argument about rather Chapman should be in the rotation or not.

  9. Nice work by Jason as per usual. He’s right in that projecting pitchers is very, very tricky. I’ve found projecting relief pitchers to be so difficult that I’ve stopped doing it unless someone asks for a projection for a particular pitcher. I mean I could guess and come up with as good of results as I was getting. Looking back at Jason’s projections for 2012, his margin of error was very, very good.

  10. I think a big thing for Johnny is his cruise control tempo and ability to raise up when he needs to miss a bat.

    He floats along at 92, but uses his 95/96 when he needs to. Not everyone can have 2 speeds like that. Aces do. Latos will be even better when he gets that rhythm thing down and does not let the circumstances bug him. That was Johnny a few years ago to, and Homer up until last year.

    And of course we are all excited to see Chapman start and develop a cruise speed of 92, and touch whatever he needs to 98 when need be.

    Aces do that

  11. Latos (1.07), Bailey (1.12) , Arroyo (1.15) & Leake (1.30) all had good to respectable HR/9 figures for 2012, especially with the venue where they pitched factored into their performance. Then there Cueto with an absolutely astonishing 0.62 HR/9 pitching in GABP. That’s simply sick.

  12. “I think the changeup is going to be a really good pitch for me, especially at Great American Ball Park,” Latos said. “[Soto] opens the door and sheds light on things that I didn’t really understand, and I now understand. I’m able to throw it for strikes. I’m able to throw it behind in the count. I’m able to throw it first pitch or deep in the count.”

    If this is true, I think the Reds actually have two #1 starters in their rotation for 2013, rather than a #1 & #2 or a #1 & #1A. It’s all about ground ball outs at GABP.

    • @Shchi Cossack: If Bailey performs like he did in the last half of 2012, they may have a #1B as well. Then again, if a certain hurler from an island 90 miles south of Florida does well as a starter, then . . .

      • @Drew Mac: The anticipation for opening day is killing me with the thought of the 2nd half performances by Latos, Bailey and Leake, not to mention the possiblity ‘if a certain hurler from an island 90 miles south of Florida does well as a starter’. Leake was an exceptional starter for the 1st two times through the batting order, but often got killed when he started through the batting order for the 3rd time. That made him a 5-6 inning starting pitcher, but he had his moments and games of excellence. If he had someone scheduled to pick him up for the final 3-4 innings of his starts, someone with a completely different approach to pitching. Someone who throws unmitigated heat after Leake’s less vigorous pitching style. Someone who couldn’t pitch the entire season in the starting rotation but needed to extend his innings during 2013 with an eye on 2014. Just sayin…

    • @Shchi Cossack: Yeah. AND, if Bailey continues as he left off last season, the Reds could have 3 #1s.

  13. I really hope Mat Latos can improve from being a second-tier ace (like Aaron Harang in 2007 and James Shields in 2012) to a legitimate #1 starter. Surely Bryan Price, Mario Soto, and others can help him achieve that.

    • @redsfanman: For a few years, there was nothing second-tier about Harang. His ERA is not super pretty, but that’s largely era/ballpark. He was an excellent pitcher from 2005-2007.

    • @redsfanman:

      I really hope Mat Latos can improve from being a second-tier ace (like Aaron Harang in 2007 and James Shields in 2012) to a legitimate #1 starter.Surely Bryan Price, Mario Soto, and others can help him achieve that.

      I don’t know if this has been noted anywhere, but read the other day that Mat has been working with Soto on the changeup….that could be a big step, if it pays off.

  14. Well, I sure am relieved that ESPN believes that JJ Hoover is the 499th best player in baseball. Why don’t they just expand the list to include the minors, the Mexican League, and American Legion players?

  15. Cueto will be Cueto in 2013. I hope it is a Cy Young Award caliber year for JC. I remember Jeff Brantley raving about Cueto’s pick-off move last year and how much work he had put in over the last couple of years on it. The results are telling.
    I think Latos has a better year than last year. I don’t think it is unrealistic for him to win 18-20 games this year.
    There will be higher paid 1-2 starting combos in MLB this year, but you’ll be hard pressed to find a better 1-2 duo.

  16. I predict that Jason’s prediction for Latos looks terrible on May 1. And then it’ll start to get better.

    • @Hank Aarons Teammate: I don’t know why, but your comment made this pop up in my brain:

      Lenny: Hey, Homer! How come you’ve got money to burn? Or singe, anyway?

      Carl: Yeah, Homer, what’s your secret investment?

      Homer: Take a guess.

      Barney: Uh, pumpkins?

      Homer: [pause] Yeah, that’s right, Barney. This year, I invested in pumpkins. They’ve been going up the whole month of October and I got a feeling they’re going to peak right around January. Then, bang! That’s when I’ll cash in.


  17. For as good as our rotation is, imagine if Chavez Ravine or Safeco was their home stadium.

    • @CI3J: I’ve often thought of that factor and its influence on the Reds pitching staff. The fact that the Reds pitchers play in GABP may be partly responsible for the development of the pitching staff, along with Bryan Price, Mack Jenkins and tons of natural talent of course. Professional athletes are competitive by nature. When faced with a challenge like GABP, some will dwell on the challenge, some will fold to the challenge and then some will rise to the challenge and excel. A lot of Price and Jenkins’ job is to bring out and promote the later condition. It’s all about adapting, just as Joey V has adapted and BHam has adapted to their own challenges.

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About Jason Linden

Jason has been a fan of the Reds since he was born. He really had no choice in the matter. He has been writing at Redleg Nation for a few years, and also writes and edits at The Hardball Times. His debut novel, When the Sparrow Sings, is available now and concerns baseball, among other things. You can find more information at


2013 Reds