Is Johnny Cueto Hurt?

Rough night for Johnny Cueto:

0.2 IP, 5 H, 2 HR, 1 SO, 3 BB, 9 ER, 25 strikes, 49 pitches

Let’s take a look over his start using Pitchfx. Cueto threw over 50% strikes thanks to the home plate umpire who extended the zone a few times and forced the Phillies batters to swing at some pitchers they probably wouldn’t have otherwise. One glance at Cueto’s strike zone plot reveals that he’s not M.C. Escher when it comes to painting the corners. Cueto really wanted to stay away from lefties and he certainly accomplished that by avoiding the plate entirely.

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Cueto could control neither his fastball nor change-up, but did seem to have a decent grip on his slider. Anytime a pitcher lacks fastball control he’s going to struggle; having the inability to control his off-speed stuff just put the nail in the coffin. More concerning for the Reds is that this is becoming a trend rather than an isolated incident. 51% of Cueto’s pitches in April and May were inside of the strike zone. Only 42% found the zone in June, and through two July starts that number is down to 40%. Cueto’s velocity is lacking any telltale signs of potential injury, and his velocity chart looks pretty normal:


Although the improved walk rate doesn’t reflect this, Cueto is actually throwing more balls this season, in part because his amount of whiffs has decreased. At the same time, Cueto’s run values have increased thanks to the Reds upgraded defense. If we were discussing the defensive independent version, I’m not so sure that would be the case.

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6 Responses to “Is Johnny Cueto Hurt?”

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  1. Tim says:

    Whenever a player doesn’t do good he is hurt now?

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    • WAL says:

      Yes. Whether he is actually hurt or not, it seems the trend is that pitchers who “suddenly” have terrible outings hit the DL (Wang) or go to AAA ( Nolasco). Not saying Cueto’s problems are similar to those two guys’, but if he puts up another terrible outing like yesterday’s he’ll probably go away for awhile.

      Also: “he’s not M.C. Escher when it comes to painting the corners.” Hilarious.

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  2. Lucid Judas says:

    When I checked the Reds team ERA-FIP a few days ago they were running a negative value. Even after that 22 run shellacking they still run a -.44. I’m still wet behind the ears when it comes to understanding what conclusions you can draw from these stats but I would guess it means that the Reds are an excellent defensive squad that tend to make their pitchers look good.

    If that is true, would it stand to reason that Cueto’s control issues were not revealed in his BB/9 rate because his O-Contact% was 10% higher than league average? There is little reason to take a walk if his junk is sexy enough to swing at regardless of it’s location. It seems to me that the defense was able to cover this up for a month before the levy broke last night.

    When did he get injured? I’ll take a stab in the dark and guess that when he shook Hank Aaron’s hand before the Civil Rights Game against the White Sox it ruined his arm. Later that night he gave up 3 HR, 5RBI over the 4th and 5th innings before he was pulled.

    Eric Harris was recommending he was a sell high at the end of May due to a BABIP around .260, HR/FB% half the norm and a LOB% in the 80′s.

    Is there a chance that he’s just been really lucky all year? If so, this would be a great cautionary tale regarding sample sizes.

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  3. Bill says:

    Cueto looked hurt in that inning, definitely.

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  4. JL says:

    I haven’t seen him pitch, but I was expecting some regression at some point. So I don’t really think he’s hurt–just experiencing some proverbial recoil. At least I hope that’s the case, since he’s a cheap keeper in my NL-only league.

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