Reds in 2013: Johnny Cueto


Now that we’re all back into the swing of things…finally.

Last month, I looked at projections regarding the Reds starters (each player had his own post aside from the catchers, so please check the December archives or scroll to the bottom of this post for those). Well, this month, I will look at the starting staff and we will begin at the top of the staff with Johnny Cueto.

As far as the “experts” are concerned, I doubt you would find a single one that could say they envisioned the 2012 Cueto posted. For some odd reason, even though Cueto has been relatively consistent his entire career, the “prognosticators” cannot seem to give Cueto his due. I bet he uses that as motivation. Can’t see why he wouldn’t.

Here’s what Cueto has done in his five seasons as a Reds starter.

If you’ve been a Reds fan for at least three years, you have seen Cueto blossom into one of the best pitchers in the National League, maybe one of the best in all of baseball.

Last season, Cueto posted 200+IP for the first time in his career. He set career highs in wins (19), games started (33) and strikeouts (170). And 2012 also saw Cueto continue positive trends. In each and every season, Cueto has shown yearly improvement in these:

Aug. 28, 2012; Phoenix, AZ, USA: Cueto against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

1. FIP, or Field Independent Pitching. I don’t really need to go into this too much. You can see these results for yourself.

So we can now observe the decrease each season. This could lead one to ask about where this puts Cueto? Glad you asked. I have your answer.

Again, Fangraphs will assist us with the following chart.

He has developed, people. His first season, by FIP “standards”, Cueto was almost awful. Last season, his best in this stat, shows that Cueto is so close to “great”. Some Reds fans already believe he is. I concur.

And clicking on the link will take you to an FIP primer on Fangraphs. Recommended reading.

2. LOB%

Simply out, if you manage to reach base against Cueto, the odds are far from being in your favor that you will score. In each of his five seasons, those chances have deteriorated.

3. BB/9

Remember the old scoreboard at Riverfront? Even see it now at GABP. Walks will haunt. It is a true statement. This is an area Cueto has controlled so well. Only 2 free passes a game this past season? Less opportunities for opponents to score if there are less runners on base..

I will repeat this. I’ve noticed over the years that Cueto someway, somehow, does not get any respect and/or credit that he so richly deserves. That lack of respect is made even clearer with this year’s Bill James projections. Even with another projection I like to view, CAIRO. It seems like this happens every year.

It could easily lead you to wonder what does Cueto have to do in order to receive the slightest bit of respect from these folks. It would also make you think what these guys could possibly have against him.

Anyway, here’s two examples of what I mean. I present the 2013 Bill James (via Fangraphs) and the CAIRO projections for Cueto…

It’s almost as if these individuals cannot wait to see any form of regression from Cueto. They might be waiting for a while as there is honestly no reason to see such. Okay, his BAA, HR/FB, ERA and WHIP did increase last season, but in his previous four, those decreased. Plus the “regression” in each of those stats wasn’t huge.

Hard to sit here, type this and assure you that Cueto will post a season in 2013 similar to that of 2012. Honestly, I can’t, but I think it’s nuts to believe he will regress and post the numbers like those the two projections show. Provided he stays healthy, I can see a duplicate of 2012, although I must confess it could be difficult.

Another area where Cueto is slighted is his success at GABP. All you have to do is look at his career splits.

And his triple slash against is better at GABP (.249/.307/.400) than on the road (.254/.328/.397). For a lot of pitchers, that would be deemed a negative. For Cueto, it’s the opposite. Hitter-friendly GABP has not presented as large an obstacle for him as it has with other pitchers.

Again, these are his career splits, not just from last season.

Maybe, just maybe, Cueto can finally get the credit he deserves.

(All stats, unless otherwise noted, are courtesy of Fangraphs))

(Catch other entries from the “Reds in 2013” series:
Joey Votto
Brandon Phillips
Jay Bruce
Shin-Soo Choo
Ryan Ludwick
Todd Frazier
The Catchers: Ryan Hanigan and Devin Mesoraco
Zack Cozart)