Back at the beginning of the season we didn’t know a whole lot about the Cincinnati Reds. Dusty Baker had taken over as team skipper and opted to go with Corey Patterson in centerfield over top prospect Jay Bruce. Adam Dunn had shown consistency in being a three true outcomes player, Ken Griffey Jr. had some home run milestone on the horizon, and Aaron Harang had shown himself capable of carrying a pitching staff, but to those outside of Cincinnati the team likely looked no different than Reds teams of the past; teams with some nice pieces that wouldn’t win.
After the first couple weeks of the season, however, it appeared they had found themselves a great young pitcher in rookie Johnny Cueto. The media went nuts over this guy and analysts did their thing with regard to his repertoire and what made him effective. Heck, why wouldn’t they? Through his first two starts he had gone 13.1 innings, surrendering just six hits and three earned runs, while walking nobody and fanning eighteen.
From there he turned inconsistent, mixing some quality starts with a few resulting in five or more earned runs, and lost his spot as the emerging Reds rookie pitcher to Edinson Volquez. In fact, Volquez’s performance thus far has made many forget about Cueto; not necessarily forgetting he exists but rather that he was highly touted as recently as two months ago.
For the season, Cueto has a 4.90 ERA, 4.78 FIP and a 1.36 WHIP. He fans a good deal of hitters, 8.27 K/9, but walks 3.37 per nine innings. Additionally, his 1.61 HR/9 ranks as the 4th worst in the senior circuit and he has been a bit below average in stranding runners. The HR/9 may be a function of his ballpark, however, as teammates Bronson Arroyo and Aaron Harang literally rank right behind him in that category. Since this is his first season we don’t have much reliable data to gauge his true talent level, so I’ll resort to this season’s numbers for the time being.
He seems to throw three different pitches—a heater, slider, and changeup—with the occasional curveball mixed in. His fastball, however, clocks in at around 93.4 mph according to the BIS data here and even looks a bit faster in the Pitch F/X data. Actually, that 93.4 mph ranks third in the NL in heater velocity, a slight tenth of a mile per hour ahead of teammate Edinson Volquez. It appears Cueto has some good “stuff” and that the lack of luck he received early on has tended to even out, but I’m curious to hear your thoughts on him. How many of you lauded his first two starts and then largely forgot about him? And what do you see moving forward from those who watch him more often?