Forget about pitcher of the month or an All-Star selection. Cincinnati Reds‘ ace Johnny Cueto is already putting together the kind of season that reeks of a Cy Young Award winner.
After defeating the Milwaukee Brewers Saturday night in Cincinnati, Cueto maintained his MLB leading ERA (although it did balloon to 1.31 because he allowed two solo home runs). His 10 strikeouts against the Brewers bumped his total for the year to 60, which also leads MLB.
The 28-year-old right-hander appears to have healed and then some from the side muscle injury that limited him to just 11 starts last year. Cueto is back on pace as a proven dealer on the mound whose 2.80 ERA since 2010 heading into Saturday’s start is the second-lowest ERA among all starting pitchers who have thrown at least 650 innings over that time span.
The one factor dragging Cueto down so far in 2014 is the Reds’ offense. In Cueto’s two losses this year, the Reds combined for a grand total of one run. In his last no-decision, in which Cueto hurled eight shutout innings, the Reds failed to score at all.
If the Reds can start to hit when Cueto pitches (like the team did against the Brewers Saturday), the Cy Young award candidate could still make a run at his career-high 19 wins in 2012. Cueto managed to finish just fourth in the Cy Young award voting that year despite a 19-9 record and a 2.78 ERA in 217 innings.
Cueto also had a stellar 2011 season, but injury limited him to just 24 starts. He still put up a 2.31 ERA in 2011 in 156 innings. Cueto first showed the signs of developing into an ace the year before in 2010 when he posted a 3.64 ERA in 185-plus innings for the NL Central division-winning Reds.
Clayton Kershaw might have the lowest ERA among all starters since 2010, but so far this year, Johnny Cueto is the king of the mound.