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Padres' Latos great, but Cy-worthy?

9/8/2010

Tim Sullivan on the record-setting phenomenon named Mat Latos:

    Latos went back on the job a day behind schedule and made it look, for the most part, like child’s play. He struck out 10, walked none, and established a major-league record by limiting his opponent to two runs or less for a 15th straight start of at least five innings.

    If this kid is not part of the conversation for the Cy Young Award, it can only be because the voters place more emphasis on a man’s workload than on the quality of his work. If Colorado’s Ubaldo Jimenez , St. Louis’ Adam Wainwright and Philadelphia’s Roy Halladay have been more prolific than Latos, none of them have been more impressive.

    Consider: Latos leads both major leagues in earned-run average (2.21) and opponents’ batting average (.191). He has won 14 out of 19 decisions for a team that has scored the fewest runs in its division. He has done what aces do, and what 22-year-old kids rarely do, grabbing the game of baseball by the scruff of the neck and reminding it of who’s boss.

Less prosaically, but also in Latos' favor: He has not suffered at all when pitching away from his pitcher-friendly home. Latos' road stats are practically non-distinguishable from his home stats and 16 of his 26 starts have come on the road. His statistics this season are not a creation of Petco Park.

But you can't just wish away the innings. After going seven innings last night, Latos ranks 32nd in the National League with 163 innings pitched. Roy Halladay, with an ERA (2.36) just slightly higher, has thrown 221 innings.

Adam Wainwright -- who's 17-10, like Halladay -- also has an ERA (2.41) just slightly higher than Latos', and he's thrown 200 innings. Josh Johnson (2.30) and Tim Hudson (2.41) have ERAs just slightly higher, and they've thrown more innings, too.

When someone argues that a player should be "part of the conversation" for an award, I'm never sure exactly what that means. Might Latos, if he continues to pitch brilliantly, deserve to sneak on to a few Cy Young ballots, in the third-place slot?

Maybe. But he simply isn't going to pitch enough to innings to be considered a serious candidate to win the award. Innings matter, a lot.