Cincinnati Reds in Review: SP Johnny Cueto


There have been countless articles written about the dominance that Johnny Cueto displayed during the 2014 season for the Cincinnati Reds. Arguably, it was the most historic single-season a Reds pitcher has ever seen.

Only time will tell just how great 2014 was for Cueto in the long run, but in the present, the man dubbed Johnny Beisbol was a beacon of light in a dreary season.

Johnny Cueto – Starting Pitcher

Were it not for Clayton Kershaw having one of the greatest seasons a starting pitcher has ever had in the modern era this past year, Cueto would have waltzed to his first career Cy Young Award. He would lead the league in innings pitched, strikeouts, hits per 9 IP and even batters faced, a category that states how big his impact was on the game.

Heading into 2014, Cueto had been heralded as an “ace-type” pitcher as long as he could stay healthy. His 2012 campaign came up one win short of the elusive 20-win mark, finishing fourth in Cy Young voting after going 19-9 with a 2.78 ERA.

Come 2014, Cueto turned it up a notch. In April alone he had four games with at least eight strikeouts, notching 16 for the season, meaning that in just less than half his starts, he struck out at least eight batters. He wouldn’t reach the sixth inning on only five occasions all year, with three of them curiously happening on the road on the 20th day of the month (May 20 at Washington, July 20 at New York and August 20 at St. Louis).

Cueto would have only five starts all year in which he didn’t receive the decision. At the All-Star break, his record sat at 10-6, which was way past the halfway mark of the season. After the July 20 start at Yankee Stadium in which he received a no decision, Cueto would get either the win (10 of them) or a loss (3 of them) in each of his final 13 starts.

How dominant was Cueto? In 27 of his 34 starts, he allowed two earned runs or less. In 23 of his 34 starts, he went at least seven innings—in 15 of those he went at least eight. He threw four complete games. The highest his ERA got at any point during the season was 2.33 after a rough start in Chicago on September 16. The lowest his ERA got was 1.15 after a marvelous performance against the Atlanta Braves on April 27 when he got a no decision in what Game Score has rated as his third best start of the season.

Cueto’s Stat Line:

20-9, 2.25 ERA, 243.2 IP, 242 K, 0.96 WHIP, .194 OAV, .241 BABIP, 3.30 FIP, 6.4 WAR

Top Johnny Cueto Moment:

There are a mess of ways to go about selecting what moment could be Cueto’s top in 2014, most of which would result in some kind of controversy about which start was his best or most important. So what I’ll do is select the start that I think most will remember from this past season over the rest.

It ‘twas the day before the off-season, and all throughout Great American Ball Park, Reds fans were as quiet as a mouse. Old Saint Johnny was on the cusp of 20 wins, but the Pirates had a plan to make his day dim. Although he twirled a gem, he would need the Reds offense to make a comeback, again. When it came down to Saint Johnny and the bat, there was no way of taking it from him; he was like a cornered rat. With a swing and a slice, Cueto had ripped a single, which was extra nice. Driving in the game-winning run was nice, but picking up win number 20 was like having the last slice.

Cueto getting his 20th win of the season on the final day of the year was a gift for a season gone so horribly awry. The fact that he did it by his own hand made it all the sweeter.

Low Point of the Season for Johnny Cueto:

Johnny Cueto broke a whole lot of records in 2014. Up until his May 20 start against the Washington Nationals, he had yet to have a start that wasn’t of the quality variety. He carried a streak of nine in a row into that start, the new all-time record to begin a season.

He seemed as if he would be fine through five innings, surrendering just two runs (one unearned), but still trailing 2-1. Then, the floodgates came apart in the sixth inning. Nationals’ rushed around the bases as if they were being chased, and before long Cueto was headed for the shower after an eight-run day that would far and away be the most he would allow in a single game all season. Yet as a testament to how good his numbers were at that point in the year, even with six earned runs being allowed, his ERA only jumped up to 1.86.

Final Grade: A+

Cueto getting an A+ is about as easy of a slam-dunk as one can get. There could be a legitimate case to be had that Cueto deserved the Cy Young Award had Clayton Kershaw missed any more time with injuries.

Whether or not this was the greatest single-season performance of a Reds pitcher in their history isn’t what’s important for the present; Cueto will focus on repeating, and even exceeding this in 2015. Then, the front office will look to ink him to a deal that will make him both, A) very wealthy, and B) a Cincinnati Red for life.