To All Cincinnati Reds Fans: Just Enjoy Johnny Cueto

Last September, I watched from my seat behind home plate in the view level section at GABP as Johnny Cueto pitched masterfully against the Pittsburgh Pirates to earn his 20th win of 2014. I remember walking away from the ballpark thinking that after all the mediocre Reds starting pitchers in the 2000s, it was a treat to be able to watch a Reds pitcher do what Cueto did. I also remember thinking how much I enjoyed watching him pitch, without any thought to money, contracts and whether the Reds can afford to keep him past 2015.

Watching Cueto has been especially special for fans who go to Great American Ball Park. GABP may be a hitter’s park, but not when he pitches. He has a 2.96 ERA at home, the lowest in a minimum of ten starts. Three of his four career shutouts have come at home. And in his last 37 innings pitched there, he’s allowed just four earned runs.

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Cueto’s a bona fide number one starter who loves to pitch on the first day of the season. He has started four consecutive Opening Day games for the Reds and now owns the Reds record for most career Opening Day strikeouts with 31. His career ERA on Opening Day is 0.64. On Opening Day 2015, he surpassed Jim O’Toole for 10th place on the all-time strikeout list in Reds history and he was the first Reds pitcher since Mario Soto to pass 1,000 career strikeouts.

Everyone knows that Clayton Kershaw has been the best pitcher in baseball the past couple of years. But if you look at the stats, Cueto is right behind him. Of all pitchers who have pitched at least 600 innings since 2011, Kershaw and Cueto are #1 and #2 in ERA, respectively.

In 2014, it was Kershaw and Cueto leading the way in almost every statistical category. While Cueto fell short of Kershaw in ERA, wins and WHIP, Cueto bested him in hits per nine IP, strikeouts and innings pitched. In 2013, he pitched only 60.2 innings due to injury. 2012 was Cueto’s breakout year and the year he got snubbed from the All-Star game despite being 10-5 with a 2.39 ERA at the break. He finished 19-9 with a 2.78 ERA in 217 innings pitched. He was behind only Kershaw and R.A. Dickey in the ERA category that year.

It’s not just Cueto’s stats that make him an impressive player. If you watch him, you can see that he knows what pitches he wants to throw to different batters at different times in the count. He mixes pitches and speeds. If he puts someone on base, he knows how to work out of trouble. He also has a tremendous pickoff throw to first base.

When Cueto’s at the top of his game, it’s a sight to behold. My advice to all Reds fans is to sit back and enjoy him for what he is: an elite pitcher who is really fun to watch. Don’t worry if the Reds can or can’t sign him or what MLB team he’ll play for next season. Appreciate what he’s accomplishing in the present day, in a Reds uniform. If you do, you’ll look back and remember the good times more fondly.

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