Let me lead off by letting you all know that the starting third baseman for the 2034 Reds was born Thursday morning. Everybody is happy and healthy and home. Thanks very much for all the kind wishes on the last post. Now, down to business…

At this point, we’ve dispensed with the easy part of the projections. So far, you seem to mostly agree with me (though Stubbs caused some discord). I expect the disagreement to grow as we get into the fuzzy and harder to predict parts of the roster. Today, I’m going to write about the only two starting pitchers about whom there are no significant playing time questions – Johnny Cueto and Mat Latos.

Latos is the acquisition that got all of our engines running this off-season. It’s been a really, really long time since the Reds have had a truly front-line starter in the rotation. Latos might end up as the best Reds pitcher since Jose Rijo. That’s not hyperbole.

And then there’s Johnny Cueto. He’s been the one starter who has consistently delivered for the Reds over the last few years. He had some injury issues last year, but his performance has always been up to snuff.

The hardest part of doing these projections isn’t figuring out rate stats so much as it’s figuring out how much to expect from individual pitchers. We all dream about a standard five-man rotation with no injuries, but that is highly unlikely to happen. Only 94 pitchers qualified for the ERA title last year, which means that an average team should expect to have only three pitchers throwing at least 160 innings. That works out to only about five innings a start if there are no starts missed.

This is the long way of saying that you need more than five starters to get through the year even if Dusty Baker does have his rotation set already.

I do, however, believe that the Reds are set up to have a more durable rotation than most, and it starts with these two. Let’s discuss Cueto first.

Johnny Cueto has steadily improved each year. That’s something that traditional stats and regular stats agree on. He’s also entering his prime, so we shouldn’t expect him to take a step back. That said, it will be a small miracle if his ERA is under 3.00 again. Last year’s 2.31 was a lucky fluke. There, I said it. He was a run lower than his FIP and one and a half runs lower than his xFIP. Those are stats that measure things pitchers can consistently control like walks and strikeouts. They like Johnny Cueto a lot, they just don’t think he’s a Cy Young candidate, and neither do I.

What I expect from him is this: His Ks will go up a bit, but so will his HRs (his home run rate was absurdly low last year, ground ball pitcher or not). He’ll make most, but not all of his starts. In the end, we’ll see a rise in his ERA, but the stellar defense behind him will help him outperform the advanced stats once again. We will continue to be glad that he is on the Reds.

Mat Latos is more of an unknown. Sure, we’ve all read a million articles on him over the last few months, but like me, I doubt many of you have payed close attention to every start of his over the last several years. What we know is that he’s good. Really, really good. And young. Also, he’s good and he throws hard. Did I mention that he’s good yet? Because he is. So there’s that. He’s also been pretty durable. The noise I’ve seen coming out of San Diego is that some of those DL trips had more to do with limiting innings than actual injury.

So we’ll expect him to make all of his starts this year. We’ll also expect him to keep up the great performance. His home run rate should rise a bit because of the move from Petco to GABP, but he’s not a product of San Diego’s cavernous stadium (he has excellent road numbers), and he will still have the Reds defense behind him, so his rate stats should continue to be excellent.

The tricky bit with Latos, for our purposes, is deciding whose innings he’s taking from last year. Indeed, the best thing about him is that he represents such a huge upgrade in the rotation. For this projection, we’ll assume he’s replacing Volquez and Wood who through about as many innings combined as I expect from Latos this year, and neither of whom is still on the team. That’s the biggest thing you’ll see below. Latos is an excellent pitcher replacing one decent pitcher and one terrible pitcher.

I will now try to predict pitcher performance. Wish me well.

  • 2012 Slash Line Predictions (ERA/IP/K rate)
  • Cueto: 3.50/190/6.5
  • Latos: 3.20/210/8.8
  • 2011 Cueto WAR: 2.8
  • 2011 Volquez/Wood WAR: 0.7
  • 2012 Best Guess Cueto: 3.5
  • 2012 Best Guess Latos: 4.5
  • Total Projected Difference: +4.5 (I told you it was going to be huge).
  • 2012 Cueto Floor: 1.5
  • 2012 Latos Floor: 1.5
  • 2012 Cueto Ceiling: 6.0
  • 2012 Latos Ceiling: 7.0

Redleg Nation Position-by-Position Season Preview:

First Base
Second Base
Right Field
Center Field
Starting Pitching – Front End of the Rotation
Starting Pitching – Middle of the Rotation
Third Base
Left Field
Season Preview Wrap-Up