Mat Latos has been awful for the Dodgers since they acquired him from the Marlins on July 30 to bolster the back of the rotation, going 0-2 with a 6.56 ERA in five starts.
Thursday night he lasted just four innings, as manager Don Mattingly gave Latos a quick hook and pinch-hit for him in the fifth frame. Latos gave up two runs in each of the first two innings and a total of eight hits in four innings.
And then afterward when speaking to reporters he made excuses for himself and blamed Mattingly’s quick hook, all in one juicy quote:
It’s hard to get into a rhythm. I kind of settled in, put up two zeros up on the board, found my release point. By the time I do that, I’m already out of the game. … Not being able to get deep in games, being on a quick leash, it’s hard to get into a rhythm whenever you get yanked real fast.
Here’s the thing, though: Mattingly has Latos on a short leash because Latos has done absolutely nothing to warrant not being on a short leash. In addition to a 6.56 ERA in five starts for the Dodgers he had a 4-7 record and 4.48 ERA in 16 starts for the Marlins.
And here’s the other thing: Latos is now on his fourth team in five seasons and everywhere he goes the consensus seems to be that … well, let’s just say he’s not a lot of fun to be around.
Mattingly seems to already be fed up with Latos. When asked after Thursday’s quick hook how much longer Latos will be in the Dodgers’ rotation, the manager replied: “I’m sure it’s something we talk about.”
Maybe things will be different with his fifth team.
Yesterday, in Milwaukee, utilityman Hernan Perez pitched two scoreless innings, and backup catcher Erik Kratz pitched one himself, mopping up in a blowout loss to the Dodgers. In doing so they became the 31st and 32nd position players to pitch this season. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that is the most position players who have taken the mound in a season in the Expansion Era, which began in 1961. Presumably far fewer ever did so when the league had only 16 teams.
It’s pretty remarkable to set that record now, in this age of 13 and sometimes 14-man pitching staffs. That’s especially true when teams shuttle guys back and forth from the minors more often than they ever have before and when, due to the shortened, 10-day disabled list, it’s easier to give guys breaks because of “injuries” than it ever has been.
Pitcher usage is driving this, however. While teams carry far more relievers than they ever have before, they actually carry far fewer swingmen or mopup men who are capable of throwing multiple innings in a blowout to save other pitchers’ arms. Rather, teams focus on max-effort, high-velocity relievers who go one or two innings tops, thus requiring catchers and utility guys to help do the mopping that actual pitchers used to do.
I don’t know if that’s a bad thing necessarily — some of these backup catchers throw harder than a lot of pitchers did 30 years ago and it’s always kind of fun to see a position player pitch — but it is yet another way the game has changed due to a focus on specialization and velocity when it comes to pitchers.