From Spring Training: Johnny Cueto proves again he’s a Legitimate Ace….When he Stays away from the Chicken Wings

Thursday afternoon Jonny Cueto of the Cincinnati Reds went out threw seven shutout innings.  He only allowed three hits and two walks, while striking out a season high nine batters.

Coming into the 2011 season, back when the Reds playoff hopes seemed much brighter, many people thought the Reds were that big “ace” from being the National League Central favorites.  Hence the rumors of them trading for James Shields, Josh Johnson, or Ubaldo Jimenez.

But Cueto is proving he is in their category and earning that tag as well.  Cueto made his MLB debut on April 3, 2008 where he became the first pitcher in MLB history to strike out 10 batters while walking no batters in their MLB debut.

Though after his debut, the rest 2008 he looked much more like the rookie he was; finishing with a 9-14 record and 4.81 ERA.

Cueto has always had the stuff to be a top major league pitcher, but it takes more than just pure stuff to be great.  Year in and year out is littered with pitchers with great stuff that never reach their potential.

Something Cueto can really hang his hat on is the fact that you can argue he got better with every season of experience he has gotten so far.


Year Age Tm W L ERA G GS CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB IBB SO HBP BK WP BF ERA+ WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2008 22 CIN 9 14 4.81 31 31 0 0 174.0 178 101 93 29 68 1 158 14 1 6 769 92 1.414 9.2 1.5 3.5 8.2 2.32
2009 23 CIN 11 11 4.41 30 30 0 0 171.1 172 90 84 24 61 0 132 14 0 4 740 95 1.360 9.0 1.3 3.2 6.9 2.16
2010 24 CIN 12 7 3.64 31 31 1 1 185.2 181 79 75 19 56 5 138 9 2 5 780 113 1.276 8.8 0.9 2.7 6.7 2.46
2011 25 CIN 7 5 2.06 17 17 3 1 113.1 83 37 26 6 35 0 69 6 1 4 454 193 1.041 6.6 0.5 2.8 5.5 1.97
4 Seasons 39 37 3.88 109 109 4 2 644.1 614 307 278 78 220 6 497 43 4 19 2743 108 1.294 8.6 1.1 3.1 6.9 2.26
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/11/2011.
From 2008 to 2010 Cueto decreased his ERA each and every year.  He also went from under a .500 winning percentage in 2008 to a .500 percentage in 2009.  Then went above .500 in 2010.  You can contribute the drop in ERA and and better winning percentage in large part to his yearly drop in walks, home runs allowed, and hits per nine innings allowed.  Less hits and walks allowed means less base runners hence his lower WHIP each year.  If you can lower your WHIP you will almost certainly lower your ERA as well therefore give your team a better chance to win.A better chance to win, isn’t this really all you can ask for from a pitcher?  Sure they can help themselves out with their glove and bat, but a pitcher who can’t pitch is not going to stay in the majors long, as a pitcher at least, for their hitting and defense.  Clearly I am not overlooking those tools, because a guy like Greg Maddux helped himself out greatly throughout their career with good defense and not being a wasteful out at the plate.  But Micah Owings (ARZ) can hit, and he is in the bullpen and Casey Coleman (CHC) is in the AAA because their pitching was not up to par.Cueto’s success in 2011 though has been a huge leap forward from even what he did in 2010, where he was not having a great year, but he was effective nonetheless.

In 2011 Cueto appears to come to the realization that living around 91-92 mph with movement and superior location is preferred over a 95-96mph fastball that might end up in the middle of the plate.  He can still crank it up there when need be, but he is working deeper into games at almost seven innings per start on average and staying out of the middle of the plate in general.

Cueto has turned to more of a sinker baller  philosophy throwing more 2-seam fastballs rather than 4-seem fastballs.  According to Fangraphs, his ground ball percentage (Ground balls/Balls in Play) has jumped from 41.7% in 2010 to 53.4% thus far in 2011.  His strike out rate is down from years past as well.

Cueto also has a new delivery he started doing against the New York Yankees in June where he turns his back a lot farther where his chest basically faces center field,  kind of like a torpedo you have the new Johnny Cueto of 2011.

His confidence seems at an all-time high as well.  He does not appear to get rattled and he appears to believe he can make any pitch at any time.

Since he missed time at the beginning of the year he never qualified for the ERA lead in the NL until late July.  But all year he has kept the Reds in the game, 15 of his 17 starts have been quality starts.  So even when he does not have his best stuff on a given day, he has found a way to get the job done.

The only major blemish on his game log in 2011 is his start he made at Wrigley Field on August 6.  Cueto allowed a season high 5 runs while only registering 3 2/3 innings.

Date DR IP H R ER BB SO HR HBP ERA BF Pit Str StL StS GB FB LD PU GSc SB CS PO AB 2B 3B IBB GDP SF ROE aLI WPA RE24
Aug 6 5 3.2 7 5 5 3 2 1 2 2.06 22 80 43 11 6 8 7 2 1 26 0 0 0 17 3 0 0 1 0 0 1.06 -0.408 -3.85
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/12/2011.
Cueto was reported to have had an upset stomach brought on by some bad chicken wings during the game.  He felt sick to his stomach but wanted to continue pitching.But he definately bounced back Thusday and so far this year the only thing that seems to be able to stop Johnny Cueto is a poultry treat.  So as long as Cueto stays away from chicken wings on days he is going to start I wish could luck to any batter that has to face Cincinnati’s emerging ace.http://mlb.mlb.com/shared/flash/video/share/ObjectEmbedFrame.swf?content_id=14805757&topic_id=&width=400&height=254&property=mlb

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