Cincinnati Reds 2015 Projections: Johnny Cueto


This past season there’s no question that Johnny Cueto established himself even more as the ace of the not only the Reds staff, but as an ace period. Since the 2010 season, Cueto owns an ERA of 2.73 and an ERA+ of 143. Yes, there are a couple of injury-plagues seasons within that mix,

But like Reds hitters, Reds pitchers seem to get a bit of a raw deal when it comes to projections. Sure, pitching in Great American can inflate a pitcher’s numbers, but Cueto has shown that he can pitch in what is widely known as a hitter’s park. His career home/away splits reflect the exact opposite of what you would expect as his home splits are actually better than the road splits. Higher winning percentage (.682 to .526), lower ERA (3.01 to 3.51), better SO/BB ratio (3.64 to 2.14) and lower WHIP (1.102 to 1.273) tell you that Cueto has learned to pitch rather well at home.

Call it home cooking if you want, but generally, a hitter’s park won’t be so friendly even to its residents.

The amazing thing is that these splits and the numbers from the last four seasons don’t appear to be adequately reflected in Cueto’s 2015 projections.

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So why are these early projections so poor by Cueto’s standards? Just as a look-see, here’s Cueto’s numbers from 2014:

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What gives here?

The ERA a full run higher? A 25% uptick in WHIP? Strange that a guy can have such mediocre projections after posting such consistent seasons. There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason, right?

Well, not exactly. There is some, but it might leave you shaking your head.

For the moment, take away the wins and losses. When comparing 2014 to the projections, the SO/9 (8.93 to 8.65), BB/9 (2.40 to 2.42) and SO/BB (3.72 to 3.57) aren’t drastically different. The increase in WHIP is then partially explained by the increase in batting average against (.192 for 2014 and .230 for the projections). And more base runners can possibly lead to more runs.

And another stat that grabs the attention more and more is BABIP. For 2014, Cueto’s BABIP was an astounding .238. You read that correctly. Some would refer to Cueto as “lucky”. Oh, the projections for BABIP? .282, which would be the highest since his 2012 campaign when it was .296. But in the past two seasons, they are .236 and that .238.

I hear you. A full run? Take it for what you want, but projecting a BABIP as low as Cueto has posted in each of the past two season seems to be a huge reach. More so if you consider that 2012 year. And in looking at some of the other “projectionable” stats, BABIP is the one the immediately grabs your attention.

To go along with that, the projections also show a strand rate of 74.6%. While that is pretty darn solid, it is nothing like the 82.5% of 2014 and 81.5% for 2013. More hits plus lower strand rate will equal more runs scored. Thus, the elevation in the ERA and decrease in winning percentage.

And you have to wonder if the lack of projected offense may have a slight influence here. Not that Steamer does account for such, but if there is some tweaking done for various reasons, it may rear it ugly head here.

I’ll reiterate what I have said since talking about projections: they are only projections. End of sentence. We can’t honestly take them and believe they will be a player’s line once a season is over. In no way are these projected numbers a guarantee of how a player will perform. In essence, think of them as water cooler talk.

Oh, and for the record, Clayton Kershaw‘s projections are not Kershaw-like either. I imagine those will become fodder, too.