The Cincinnati Reds are fortunate to have Johnny Cueto. He developed quickly after stumbling through his first two seasons with the Reds in 2008 and 2009, but since 2010 Cueto has been so dominant that his 2.74 ERA ranks second among all pitchers to throw more than 700 innings during that span — better than Felix Hernandez, Adam Wainwright, Cole Hamels, David Price, Cliff Lee and so forth.
Cueto is having his best season yet in his seven years with the Reds. So good that he remains within range of claiming his stake for the NL Cy Young Award if he can continue to keep pace with Clayton Kershaw.
Heading into Friday night’s games, Cueto led the NL in innings pitched (162.2) and opponents batting average (.183). He was second in strikeouts by one (166) and WHIP (0.82). His 12 wins were just behind the leaderboard of 13, and his sterling 2.05 ERA ranked third.
Fortunately, Cueto will pitch for the Reds for the rest of 2014 as he continues his bid for a Cy Young. Cueto finished fourth in the Cy Young voting in 2012 when he finished with a 19-9 record and 2.78 ERA in 217 innings.
If Cueto is going to keep his hat in the ring for the Cy Young, he’ll have to avoid the stumble he had in 2012 when he surrendered 14 earned runs over 15.1 innings in his first three starts of September. That damage caused his ERA to spike from 2.48 to 2.92 and put an end to what chance he had of squeezing out higher consideration for the award.
Cueto may have less to play from a team perspective as the shorthanded Reds battle the rest of the way to stay above the .500 mark, but from a career standpoint, this may be the best year he’ll ever have, especially if it ends with a Cy Young Award.