Sabermetric Spotlight: Johnny Cueto, SP, Cincinnati Reds
The Reason -
I never would have guessed that a Cincinnati Reds pitcher would be having a CY Young caliber year. This is mainly due to playing at Great American Ballpark, a band box of sorts. I always try and avoid any pitchers who are throwing here and love picking up players who hit there. So to have Johnny perform this well, it’s something I would have never predicted. Now he is getting lots of plugs in CY Young talk, so lets see why!
Basic Numbers -
Lets look at the past five years at once, cool?
Hello consistent improvement. His ERA, and WHIP all improved steadily from 2008 to 2011. This year has been, at least statistically, a step back from 2011. However this year Cueto has 17 wins and will cross 200 IP for the first time in his career, two factors that will definitely play a part of the CY Young raace.
The past two years have been stellar for Johnny. The only difference between the two are the increased K/9 of 7.13 (from 6) and the deceased BB% at 5.6% (from 7.5%). Yes, he is striking out more and walking less. This is a deadly combo. Unfortunately this year welcomes Cueto with a higher BABIP of 2.91 and this results in a higher BAA of .239, still below his career average though.
Inducing more line-drives seems trouble some, especially at 22.2%, a career high. The only bright spot about that is the decrease in fly-balls (29% from 30.1%), which translates into less homeruns overall. Sure, his HR rate is slightly up, but it is still well over half of what it was when he broke into the league in 2008 and 2009. His SIERA and ERA indicates that he is having results that are better than predicted, given his stats. The trend from the past three years sees this as normal and it seems as if Johnny is fully comfortable using his arsenal and knowing what type of pitcher he is. Some would say this is the “Art of Pitching”. #Barf (Shot at Tigers radio broadcast? Yup!)
Pitch Types and Speed -
Wow. Johnny is throwing his two-seamer fastball 11% less than 2011 (40.3% to 29.3%). The majority of this is found with his change-up, now being thrown 20.1% (up from 9.7%). He has also introduce a cutter this year, which he has thrown 1.2% of the time.
Would you be shocked that I told you batters are almost having identical results as to swings and locations? Me neither. Perhaps the biggest change is the 62.5% of first strikes being thrown, up from 55.6% last year. This has lead to a slight decrease in contact of swings when the pitch is a strike (87.7% from 90.1%). These are all good things, and just more evidence as to his improvements.
Forward Looking -
September 1st is this weekend, meaning, there isn’t much left to this 2012 MLB year. Johnny is estimated to have five more starts, four of these being at home. He will throw vs Philadelphia, vs Houston, @ Miami, vs Los Angeles and vs Milwaukee. The Reds are 8.5 games up in the Central and almost a near lock (99.4%) to make the playoffs. He will be throwing in the post-season where we will get to see if the rest of the nation gets clued in on just how consistent Cueto is.
Fantasy Analysis -
He isn’t doing you any favors in the K department, but leading the majors in Wins with 17 is nice, right? His ERA and WHIP are great, you are throwing him with confidence knowing that the risk is low and the reward is known ahead of time. While he may not be someone that wows you, he has be an anchor on your team and silencing your woes when your other pitchers tank it. Show him more love already!
Did You Know? -
Johnny’s hero and role model? None other than fellow Dominican, Pedro Martinez.
Conclusion and Projection -
After interpreting all of Johnny’s stats for the past few years, it is clearly evident that he has established himself as a top caliber pitcher. Why he will never have a upper echelon strikeout rate, he will continue to be consistent and produce Wins and eat up innings for the Reds. His contract is up in 2014 and it will be interesting to see if Cincinnati tries to sign him to a contract extension and lock him up long term. Look for the spotlight to really turn to Johnny as the month of September dwindles and the talk of awards and the post-season take full effect.
Reactions and opinions are always welcomed. Find me on twitter: @pf_hayes