Cincinnati Reds ace Johnny Cueto once again helped his own cause with an eight-inning, one-run performance on Sunday against the Toronto Blue Jays. The quality start enabled Cueto to keep himself ahead of the competition when it comes to most deserving starting pitcher to start for the NL in the 2014 MLB All-Star Game.
Cueto preserved his lead among NL starting pitchers in ERA (1.86), innings pitched (116), BAA (.173) and WHIP (0.84). His strikeout total of 119 ranks second in the NL. Despite his league-leading status, Cueto still faces stiff competition among other NL starters for the top All-Star nod. Adam Wainwright is second to Cueto in the categories that Cueto leads with the exception of innings pitched. Both Clayton Kershaw and Josh Beckett have spun no-hitters this year while posting ERAs that could earn them serious consideration to be named the starter for the NL in the All-Star game.
However, Cueto’s league-leading numbers are reinforced by the historic start he had to the 2014 season. He began the season with an unprecedented nine straight starts of pitching at least seven innings while surrendering just two runs or less. Since 1914, only two other pitchers have managed to do that in eight straight starts at the outset of the season – the last being Fernando Valenzuela in 1981.
Cueto may command less spotlight than the likes of Wainwright, Beckett and Kershaw, but not only has he been just a tick better than them in 2014, he’s also been a top pitcher in baseball for a few years now. Since 2011, Cueto’s 2.48 ERA is second only to Kershaw’s 2.23 ERA among starters to pitch at least 500 innings.
Cueto’s next two starts are on the road against the San Francisco Giants and the San Diego Padres. If he can continue to keep ahead of the pack after the first week of July, it’s going to become increasingly difficult to deny him of his rightful spot to start the Midsummer Classic for the NL.