After pitching an 8 inning gem in the first game of today’s doubleheader, marking the 7th win in his last 8 starts, Johnny Cueto has cemented himself as the favorite for the NL Cy Young as the season passes the 3/4 post. The NL crop of pitchers in 2012 has not rendered an overwhelming favorite at really no point throughout the year, making this the perfect time for Cueto to prove his snub from the All-Star Game truly was that.
This sparse field includes realistically Cueto, R.A. Dickey, Matt Cain, Jordan Zimmermann, and Aroldis Chapman (more on that in a later post). With the sabermetric movement sweeping its way into the mainstream, WAR has become a popular barometer and I have found it to be a good beginning measure of comparing players. According to Baseball Reference’s calculation of WAR, Cueto ranks 1st among all NL pitchers in WAR at 5.4. The next closest is Zimmermann at 4.4. The next closest to the duo at the top of the Cy Young candidate list above is Dickey who stands at 3.6. Using WAR, Cueto is the favorite by a good margin.
Using more traditional parameters, Cueto still stacks up well. With the win today, Cueto advanced to 16-6 which makes him the first NL pitcher to get to 16 wins. His ERA of 2.44 is second only to Zimmermann’s 2.44 and his 1.13 WHIP puts him into a tie for 8th among NL pitchers. Johnny has also done well at doing deep into his starts. 169.2 innings thus far in 2012 has Cueto 2nd in the NL in innings and he has succeeded in going at least 6 innings in every start but 4 out of his 24 thus far. The pace puts him on track for pitching the most innings of his career.
The only drawback on Cueto’s 2012 campaign thus far has been his subpar strikeout numbers. Sitting at 135 Ks, Cueto is tied for 14th in the NL in strikeouts trailing the leader Dickey by 40 Ks. While strikeouts are a main counting stat when it comes to Cy Young voters filling their ballots, Cueto proving effective while not being an overwhelming strikeout pitcher while pitching a good portion of his games in Great American Ballpark speaks something to his season. Hearing mainstream media count their NL Cy Young tallies, this the primary knock I hear.
As long as Johnny does not fall into a funk he has the best shot of all to claim the NL Cy Young at season’s end. Just as a personal aside, remembering back to the young Reds’ fan I was back in the early 2000s I was unsure whether I would ever even see a hitter have a .300 season. Now seeing a Central Division banner, a NL MVP, and now seeing the makings of the best regular season and a potential Cy Young happening in Cincinnati makes me smile. It is good to be a Reds fan.