The Reds have seen some flashes of brilliance from 22-year-old Johnny Cueto since handing him a rotation spot coming out of spring training. His debut was nothing short of sensational, giving up just a solo home run over seven innings of brilliance, striking out 10 guys on the way. However, after a couple of starts that weren’t as effective, Cueto is now sporting a 5.40 ERA.
However, his peripherals don’t look like that of a young kid adjusting to life in the majors – 6 walks and 33 strikeouts in 35 innings shows that he’s commanding the strike zone, and even with his home run issues, his FIP stands at just 4.14. So why doesn’t Cueto’s run prevention match his peripherals?
Take a look at his splits.
No One On Base: 98 PA, .170/.204/.351, 4 HR, 4 BB, 28 K
Runners On Base: 45 PA, .421/.442/.711, 2 HR, 2 BB, 5 K
That’s a remarkable difference, even in a sample of 143 plate appearances. When he’s pitching from the wind-up, he’s blowing hitters away – 28.5% of the batters he has faced have struck out when no one is on base. Once he starts pitching from the stretch, however, that rate drops to just 9%. The walk and home run rates are similar in both scenarios, so it seems unlikely that his stuff takes a nosedive when pitching out of the stretch (this sounds like a great case for a Pitch f/x analysis), but someone in Cincinnati might want to work with Cueto on his approach to pitching once a guy gets on base.