March 4, 2013; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; Cueto throws against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the first inning during a spring training game at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. (Photo: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports)

Johnny Cueto's Ascent to Opening Day Starter


The naming of Johnny Cueto as the Opening Day starter seemed like a no-brainer. There are possibly those that would state that Mat Latos could be the guy as well. In fact, BRM’s own Cliff Eastham raised the question on Cueto or Latos some time back.

Now, it would be easy to look at what both Cueto and Latos have done in their home performances solely from last season in order to derive an answer. Both pitched better at Great American Ball Park than they did away from their home park, but let’s look at Cueto’s GABP numbers from the past two seasons. What you will see is that despite pitching in a hitter-friendly stadium, Cueto has pitching at home pretty much down to an art.

Here’s the evidence…

 

YR W L ERA GS IP H R ER HR BB SO SO/BB WHIP BA OBP SLG
2011 4 2 1.38 10 65.1 45 20 10 3 17 54 3.18 0.949 .192 .260 .256
2012 10 3 2.79 14 93.2 86 29 29 9 14 80 5.71 1.068 .245 .283 .373
TOTAL 14 5 2.21 24 159 131 49 39 12 31 134 4.32 1.019 .224 .273 .326

No one would doubt that Cueto’s emergence on the national stage has been one that has been developing over a few years.

One thing I think some forget about Cueto is he did take a meteoric rise through the Reds farm system. Prior to the 2008 season, Cueto was ranked #34 on Baseball America’s Top 100 Prospects list. Much of that was due to pitching at three levels (A+, AA, and AAA) over the ’07 season. For the 2008 season, Cueto found himself on the Opening Day roster. Since then, the only time Cueto has seen the minors was in the beginning of 2011 when he was in Louisville on a rehab assignment.

When the national scribes name aces, Cueto’s name is seemingly left off that list. To many a Reds fan, that is surprising. As Ryan Hanigan said

“Mentally, he always had the ace mentality,” said Cueto’s main batterymate, catcher Ryan Hanigan. “He is always ready to go. He’s strong and dominant. That’s something to lean on. We have a guy that’s going to go out there and bring it. He’ll come at you. There were a lot of games that really worked well.”
- Hanigan from Mark Sheldon on Reds.com

And I would not be surprised that the exclusion from that “list” doesn’t inspire and fuel Cueto. It should as we’ve seen his development and maturation over the past three seasons.

So why is Cueto not considered one of baseball’s “aces”? In all honesty, does it matter? Say it’s due to a lack of respect. Say it’s because last season was the first time he hurled over 200 innings. Say he’s never been that guy that has lived for the strikeout.

He wins. He pitches well. We saw what not having Cueto available to this team means. Needn’t look any farther than last year’s NLDS.

We in Reds Country know Cueto is that which others will not acknowledge.

He is truly an ace in our book.

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