Just in case you haven't had your fill of Mat Latos-related content over the past few days, I asked jbox and Dex at Gaslamp Ball if they would be kind enough to answer a few questions for us. We've all read plenty of analysis from experts and poured over the relevant (and irrelevant) numbers, but I thought it would be helpful to get the invaluable nerdlinger fan perspective. It's what we do around here. Anyway, here goes:
RR - One of the more concerning items (on our end, anyway) to come out in the analysis of this trade is that the Padres may have had some concerns regarding his maturity. So much so, even, that it may have been their primary motivation in moving him. Could you weigh in on this? Is he just an animated character on the mound like Chris Carpenter, or is he an unstable powder keg like Carlos Zambrano? Have you seen any progress (or regress) over the past few years?
GLB - Latos’ maturity issues definitely lean more towards emotional goofball rather than psychopath, though who knows what goes on behind the scenes. Not really sure how accurate the Padres rumored concerns affected the decision to trade him. For a really good article about how he has grown since his early days check out this ESPN piece. It seems that he had problems with authority and keeping his cool on the mound. As far as progress goes, that was 2010. He jumped on board with the team mentality which led to his success and demonstrated why some people consider him an Ace.
RR - Latos has already spent some time on the DL in his short career. Could you give us some details? Is it anything we should be concerned about long-term?
GLB - No. Both times he landed on the DL it was suspected for reasons other than injury. The first injury was the result of a sneeze but was also served as a way to rest him and limit his innings without using any options. With the Padres in a pennant race in 2010, he fell off towards the end of the season (like the rest of the team) likely due to fatigue.
Tom Krasovic said the second stint on the DL due to a "shoulder flare up" (bursa sac) was also a way to give Latos a time to build confidence after an awful Spring Training. GM Hoyer said they didn’t even give him an MRI which means the injury wasn’t serious.
RR - What's his pitch repertoire like? It looks like he used his slider a bit more this past year. The numbers say he has fantastic stuff, but could you give any eyeball scouting info?
GLB - He usually has good stuff, it’s just a matter of keeping a consistent delivery. Mat seems to get into trouble, like most pitchers, when elevating his pitches. Last season he was frequently touched up early by the long ball and then would settle in and be lights out the rest of the way.
RR - Was there any hint of a discussion of a long-term extension before he was traded? Do you think he'd be amenable to the idea, or does he seem more like a year-to-year guy who wants to hit free agency as soon as possible?
GLB - By all accounts, he really loved San Diego. We just saw him at a charity event last week and he was the first player that I’ve seen wear a Padres hat while out of uniform. I think that says something about the way he felt about San Diego. It seemed that he would’ve been happy signing a long term deal, but that’s after one good season and one OK season. Neither Latos or the Front Office hinted at a deal but fans brought it up frequently.
RR - What's the nature of his relationship with the media? Is he good for a witty quip every now and again, or is he more reserved or even stand-offish?
GLB - He is a character, which is part of what’s breaking a lot of hearts in San Diego. As a counter to his fiery personality on the mound he is usually pretty subdued in post game interviews. However, some local media have come out and said that he’s an a-hole and that the media has covered it up, so there’s that side of the coin also.
He seems to attract controversy, noteably he once autographed several baseballs with the words "I Hate SF" just above his signature which riled up fans from the Bay Area. He has also been criticized on occasion for focusing on the positives of his own performance after a loss which rubbed some media and apparently some teammates and coaches the wrong way.
RR - His wife seems like a peach of a gal. Does she make herself a visible person around the ballpark and the community? Like, do you think she would put on something like a charity bikini car wash? And if so, what do you think the security would be like for such an event? Like, do you think one would be able to openly use camera equipment, or would one be safer concealing it in something like a ball cap, or, say, a dozen roses? I, uh, my friend jch24 wants to know.
GLB - Dallas is active on Twitter (@DallasLatos) and always entertaining, get to know her there first. She travels with Mat on the road and attends his starts at home. As far as visibility goes, she freely admits to bouts of shyness and is probably the least visible, modelesque lady, wearing bedazzled team gear ever. She is really nice but does not suffer fools gladly.
RR - One thing I noticed looking at his numbers is that he doesn't often go deep into games. I would figure a guy who walks so few hitters would more often pitch into the 8th inning or later. Was he held to unusually strict pitch counts due to age or injury history? Did he lose effectiveness the 3rd time through the order? Or was the Padres' bullpen so awesome that it was just unnecessary for him to go that deep?
GLB - Jed Hoyer and Buddy Black really tried to keep Mat on a strict pitch count, protecting his arm and trying not wear him out over the course of a Major League season. He jumped up through the minor leagues so quickly that they wanted to limit the number of innings he threw until he built up his endurance.