Best Cincinnati Reds Ever: Johnny Cueto v. Kevin Mitchell


First Round Matchup No. 5 Johnny Cueto v. No. 12 Kevin Mitchell


Had Johnny Cueto pitched six more innings for the Cincinnati Reds in 2011 he would have been runner-up for the ERA lead behind one Clayton Kershaw. Unfortunately a back injury forced him to miss half of September after missing time earlier in the season as well, but he had firmly established himself as the Reds’ ace. In 2012 Cueto won 19 games, led the league in games started, finished fourth in the Cy Young Award voting, scored a career-best 4.7 WAR and led the Reds to just their second NL Central title since 1995.

Again in 2014 Cueto led the league in games started, was named to his first (and only) All-Star game, finished runner-up in the Cy Young voting behind Kershaw and just missed his career mark with a 4.6 WAR. He also received MVP votes that season as he won a career-high 20 games, sported a 2.25 ERA and led the league in innings pitched (243 2/3), strikeouts (242) and hits allowed per nine innings (6.2).

Cueto maintained his status as Cincinnati’s ace up through the all-star break last season before the rebuilding Reds opted to cash in on his return-value and traded him to the Kansas City Royals for a trio of prospect pitchers; Brandon Finnegan, Cody Reed and John Lamb.

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Cueto now pitches for the San Francisco Giants in his age-30 season, but finished his Reds career — for now — with a 3.27 ERA, a 92-63 record, 11 complete games and 1,115 strikeouts (7.5 K/9). He also produced a positive clutch rating (via FanGraphs) in five of his six full seasons with the Reds and was the first Reds player since 1900 to record 10 strikeouts in his MLB debut — a game where he held a perfect game through five innings and allowed just one hit before winning 3-2.


Mitchell played just 225 games with the Cincinnati Reds across three season (1993-94, 96), but he made them count. The outfielder belted 55 home runs, including a team-high 30 (95 games) in the strike-shortened 1994 season where he maintained a .326 AVG and garnered MVP votes. His .681 SLG that season was the highest by a Reds player in franchise history

He sported a career .332/.414/.631 slash line with the Reds with a 1.045 OPS. He walked 110 times and was punched out just 126 times. He was more so known for his MVP season with the Giants — the team he made both of his all-star appearances with — but his time in Cincinnati helped lead the Reds to their first division title since their World Series-winning 1990 team.

Mitchell left the Reds in 1995 to play a season in Japan, returned to the Red Sox in 1996, before being traded back to Cincinnati in a mid-season trade. He eventually played 13 seasons for eight different MLB teams.

Injuries, off-field issues and weight problems ultimately hindered and derailed Mitchell’s career, but in his short stay in Cincinnati, Mitchell was one of the more lethal producers in the Reds’ lineup.

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