Aug 7, 2012; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Cincinnati Reds pitcher Johnny Cueto (47) pitches to Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Corey Hart (1) in the first inning at Miller Park. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-US PRESSWIRE

The Search For “It”, Day Four // Heeeeeere's Johnny!

This is part four of my attempt to find a true “It” factor on the Cincinnati Reds 40 man roster. Each article in the series will focus on one of the members of the Reds 40 man roster, starting with the most ‘secure’ players as to avoid writing an article about a potential trade victim, retiree, or free agent.

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When it comes to award snubs for the 2012 season, a lot of Reds fans have a lot to complain about. Other than a couple of the gold gloves (and really, looking back at the stats are enough to calm me down on that front), the only award not given to a Reds player that I truly think should have also happens to be the second most sought-after post-season award. Johnny Cueto should have been in the running for the Cy Young.

As I’ve said before, I’m not one to include heavy statistics in my articles. Honestly I don’t understand a lot of them, and I think the importance a player has on a team and in the league has more to do with qualities rather than quantities. Statistics help us out with things like awards and who gets into the Hall of Fame. Whether it should be that way or not is a completely different discussion.

The qualities of Johnny Cueto will be covered in this article. But I will say that the so called statistical experts really missed a big one in Cincinnati. I’ll let one of the guys who DOES use statistics in his writing (probably why he’s making the big bucks and I’m sitting on my futon) take it from here:

[blackbirdpie url="https://twitter.com/johnfayman/status/268890357067051008"]

Here is Mr. Fay’s article defending his vote for Cueto. I’m sure most of you have read it. I’m even more sure most of you were nodding your head in agreement after reading it. Yep. That really happened.

Cueto as a pitcher has evolved over the years. Almost every start throughout the 2012 season you heard broadcasters observing the fact that he has evolved from being a pure thrower to an actual pitcher. This is evident in the fact that the national media is paying him a little bit of attention now. It’s also evident in the fan reaction to losing Cueto a handful of pitches into his postseason game. Would we have reacted that way in 2010? Unlikely.

For as good as Mat Latos is (and as good as Homer Bailey and Aroldis Chapman will hopefully be next year), there’s no doubt it any Reds fan’s mind that Johnny is the clear cut ace of this staff. The no-doubt-about-it, absolutely-100-percent ace is an important part of any winning team. Without it you have question marks. And as anyone who watched the leadoff batters this year, question marks aren’t good. Latos, forevermore referred to by this blogger as “Figure 1-B”, is probably some of the best ace insurance in the game, and presumed “Figure 3” is coming off a no-no and a near postseason no-no. Add that to the fact that, with the recent news that Jonathan Broxton might be coming back for a couple of years, the dominant Aroldis Chapman might be your fourth or fifth starter, naming Cueto your absolute ace is just more of a testament to how good this guy really is.

So what do Reds fans like the most about Johnny Cueto? I can think of a few things. Besides his obvious skill set, I think there’s a lot of Ohio in him. Of course, the Dominican Republic is lightyears away from Cincinnati, but let’s examine Cueto the person. He’s a small guy. The program has him listed at 5’10”, but for years he’s been thought to be 5’8”. Does that stop him? Absolutely not. Like a lot of the Reds fanbase, Cueto works as though he has a chip on his shoulder. He’s been called “too small” for most of his life. He had to work hard to get where he’s at today. Ohioans know a lot about hard work, making Mr. Cueto more relatable than one might originally think.

He’s also one of those players that you can just tell is having the time of his life down there. Johnny is a lot like Brandon Phillips in that you barely ever see him without a smile on his face when he’s not locked into his pitching zone. Again, the fans react to this a lot more than you might think.

However, I think the biggest reason Reds fans like Cueto so much is that he just keeps getting better. He was pretty good when he first got here. At the very least he was a guy who threw hard, and that’s always exciting. But with each year Cueto has proven that he’s truly improving on his game and that he won’t stop until he’s got a couple of World Series rings on his fingers.

Oct 6, 2012; San Francisco, CA, USA; Reds staff and Ryan Hanigan react after an injury to Cueto against the San Francisco Giants during the first inning of game one of the 2012 NLDS at AT&T Park. (US PRESSWIRE)

Looking ahead to next year, it’s easy to see regression from Cueto. It’s hard to find an optimistic baseball fan because year after year our favorite players get hurt and we dust off the relatively fresh “well, there’s always next year” phrase. Cueto was the only Reds starter to leave a game with an injury in 2012, and that wasn’t until the playoffs. Surely the rotation won’t have that kind of health again this year, and right now fingers are all pointing at Cueto. Like I said above, the rotation is strong enough that losing Cueto to injury won’t kill the entire season, but he’d definitely be missed.

The results are in. Does Cueto have the “it” factor to lead the Cincinnati Reds to a World Series? Sort of. There are very few sources of “it” on this team, none of which were readily available or were blocked by roster spot during the majority of the NLDS. If Cueto pitches the entirety of game 2, I think the Reds win the series. Latos was superb, and we all know that Homer Bailey wasn’t the reason we lost game 3. So, instead of naming Johnny a sole proprietor of “it” on this roster, I believe it’s the healthy rotation (led, of course, by Cueto) that could have, and in my opinion would have, pushed the Reds over the limit in the playoffs.

There’s a handful of players with “it” factor in them on this roster. Hopefully with a little help from the baseball news Gods, I’ll be able to talk about one of them next week. Here’s to hoping all of our readers had a safe and family-fun-filled holiday season!

Tags: 2013 Season Cincinnati Reds Johnny Cueto MLB NL Central

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