Should Mat Latos get the start in Game One of the NLDS?

BY foxsports • September 24, 2012

With less than two weeks left, the Reds are starting to look at their postseason pitching rotation.
On Monday, they announced that Mike Leake's turn in the rotation will be skipped, and that Johnny Cueto, Bronson Arroyo and Mat Latos will throw against Milwaukee in their series that begins on Tuesday.
This is likely the sign that Cueto, Arroyo and Latos will pitch games 1-3 in the postseason.
Cueto and Latos are similar pitchers, and Dusty Baker is a smart enough manager to know that splitting them up will prevent the opposition from settling in. Strategy is huge in the playoffs, and placing Arroyo between the two will force their opponent to adjust to different styles.
But should Cueto automatically get the start in Game One of the the NLDS?
The numbers say that perhaps Latos should get the nod in Game One. These are the stats for the Reds' starting five since the All-Star Break;

 Pitcher  W-L ERA  IP  ER  HR  BB  SO 
 Latos 6-2 3.01 92.2  66  33  31  32  80 
 Cueto 8-4 3.48 82.2  82  33  32  21  68 
 Arroyo 8-3 3.50  82.1  83  32  32  15  48 
 Bailey 5-4  3.67 90.2  94  41  37  10  23  76 
 Leake 5-3 5.69 74.1 94  47 47  15  16  46 

For starters, it's obvious that Mike Leake is the odd man out and will head to the bullpen for long relief. He'll probably get a spot start between now and October to keep him fresh.
As for Game One, Latos has a far better ERA than the rest of the team. If the Reds end up in San Francisco for the NLDS, perhaps it would be wise to put him up first in a pitcher's stadium like AT&T Park. It can't be easy to sit Cueto down for the first game, because he has been the leader of this staff for a long time. He has outstanding numbers, but has struggled in September.
That would leave the decision for Game Two up to Arroyo or Homer Bailey. Bailey has been dominant on the road, and has had decent numbers overall since the All-Star Game. However, Arroyo is the team veteran and has multiple playoff appearances. It's a tough choice to make, but it will probably fall to Arroyo.
That would bring Cueto up for Game Three back at Great American Ballpark, and Bailey in Game Four. Latos would throw again if Game Five is necessary.
While the stats are legit, the rest is all speculation and opinion. Dusty Baker will probably go with a rotation of Cueto, Arroyo, Latos and Bailey.
And let's be honest - those are four pitchers that can grab this city a championship.
- Jeff Seemann