With the disappearance of Johnny Cueto—as we know him anyway—the Reds may end up entering the postseason searching for their staff ace. Johnny Cueto was a machine for the first five months of the season and was also the runaway NL Cy Young favorite. But, my oh my how three starts can turn a season around.
Loser of his last three starts, Johnny Cueto has seen his ERA Balloon from 2.48 (tops in the NL) to 2.91. He once held a 17-6 record and was a surefire 20-game winner only to see his record fall to 17-9 as he strives to just reach 18 wins.
Regardless of how the season ends, Mr. Cueto has had a tremendous year. But just because he has had a tremendous season does not mean that he is the Reds' ace heading into October play.
Mat Latos has been anchoring the Cincinnati Reds' starting staff of late. The Kid who came over in the much hyped trade with San Diego during the off-season has outperformed Cueto down the stretch—he has actually been putting up better numbers than Cueto since the beginning of August. During this time period and over the same number of starts, Mat Latos has pitched more innings (62 IP to 57 IP), given up fewer hits (48 to 55), fewer home runs (four to eight) and has maintained a lower ERA (2.90 to 4.21) than has Johnny Cueto.
The playoffs are all about what teams and what players are peaking at the start of October. You need look no further than what the Cardinals and David Freese did last season—you ride the hot hand.
Johnny Cueto still has a couple starts to get things right. But if he continues to be just "average" and Mat Latos continues to pitch like an ace, then the Reds may be best served to let Latos open up postseason play.
It would be a tough decision, but a championship is on the line. I would rather open up each series with putting the guy on the mound that gives me the best shot to win now not two months ago—wouldn't you?
You can follow Joshua Ramsey on Twitter @JRamsCincy