Cincinnati Reds ace Johnny Cueto may have watched his league-leading ERA slip away from him with a three-run first inning Wednesday, but though he is now second in the NL in ERA to St. Louis Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright, Cueto should be the first choice to start this year’s All-Star game.
The point about who deserves the start will most likely be moot because Wainwright’s manager Mike Matheny is the one picking the starter. Matheny won’t pick the ace of a division rival over his own guy, especially when the separation between the two this year is so small.
Also, there’s a good chance that Cueto’s final start leading up to the All-Star will be on the Sunday before the mid-summer classic, and that would prevent Cueto from pitching in the game at all.
Still, there’s a chance that the Reds will bump up Cueto’s next start due to an off-day, which would enable Cueto to make his final start of the first half before Sunday.
The justification that Wainwright now has the lower ERA of the pair (1.89 to Cueto’s 1.99) won’t stand if Cueto ends up outpitching Wainwright during the last two games. Wainwright will have more wins than Cueto (11 to eight as it stands now), but Cueto still leads the league in innings pitched (131.1), WHIP (0.87) and opponents batting average (.176).
Cueto is also second in the NL in strikeouts with 130, trailing Stephen Strasburg (not Wainwright) by just one.
Besides, Cueto has produced a historically unprecedented start to a season this year. He became the first starting pitcher to throw at least seven innings while surrendering just two runs or fewer in his first nine starts of a season, surpassing the eight straight such starts by Fernando Valenzuela in 1981 and Dave Ferriss in 1945.
His historic start plus his arguably league-best first half of the season on the whole should be enough for Cueto to be recognized as the NL starter for the All-Star game, even if that doesn’t happen.