On Tuesday night, Cincinnati Reds’ ace Johnny Cueto did something quite unusual for him: he lost his second consecutive start. By dropping a 3-0 decision to the Chicago Cubs, Cueto most likely also dropped out of the race for the 2014 National League Cy Young Award. Here’s why Cueto’s mini-slide leaves Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers as a virtual lock to pick up the pitching hardware.
The most visible argument against Cueto at this stage of the season is that be plays for a bad team, while Kershaw is leading the Dodgers’ push into the playoffs. To overcome the stigma of a losing club, Cueto would have to put up a really gaudy won-loss record, and right now he’s at 15-8. In contrast, Kershaw is 15-3.
Beyond wins and losses, the advantage of peripheral rate stats has also shifted firmly onto Kershaw’s side in recent weeks. Kershaw holds decided advantages in ERA (1.82 v. 2.20), WHIP (0.828 v. 0.945), ERA+ (197 v. 163) and strikeouts per nine innings (10.8 to 8.9).
The only areas where Cueto can boast an advantage at this late juncture are in the counting stats: the Reds’ star holds the edge in games started (27 v. 21) and innings pitched (192.2 v. 153.1). Even though he trails Cueto in time on the mound thanks to an early-season injury, Kershaw still tops his Cincy counterpart in complete games and shutouts, and he has just seven less strikeouts. The Dodgers’ aces has also surrendered only 21 walks ont he season.
In mid-summer, it looked like Cueto would at least battle Kershaw down to the wire for the Cy Young Award in 2014, and a case could have been made that Cincinnati’s ace was the best pitcher in baseball. Now, however, the shine has worn off Cueto’s star ever so slightly, which is enough to relegate him to afterthought status in the glare of Kershaw’s continued dominance.
When we look back on the 2014 season, Reds fans will see lots of terrible hitting stats and one stellar pitching line that just wasn’t quite good enough to carry the team into the postseason or Cueto to awards glory.