May 3, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Johnny Cueto (47) pitches during the eighth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Great American Ball Park. The Reds defeated the Brewers 6-2. (Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports)

Johnny Cueto reasserting himself as Reds ace

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In a sense, Johnny Cueto could be making up for lost time. You might also say he’s indirectly paying back a favor.

This season Cueto has seemingly taken his vengeance out on opposing hitters. Those hitters are averaging a measly .132 against him. It’s worse for left-handed batters as they are batting a meager .101 when facing Cueto. Even in the pair of losses he has suffered, the opponent is hitting only .160.

After his effort from last evening (8 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 10 K), Cueto now leads all of baseball in ERA (1.31), strikeouts (60), innings pitched (55), H/9 (4.1), and bWAR (2.7). Toss is a pair of complete games and you have another stat Cueto leads the MLB. He also leads the National League in ERA+ with a 280. He has already surpassed his strikeout total from 2013.

He doesn’t have the wins to show for his efforts. The bats have not been able to provide for his stellar work. The 6 runs the Reds plated last night were the most run support he has received to date. Even in adding those 6 runs, Cueto receives only 2.61 per outing.

Cueto’s SO/9 of 9.8 sits as the highest of his career. Sure, this is only after seven starts, but if you have followed the critique of Cueto, you realize this is a major addition to his arsenal. After the 2011 season, questions were brought forth about his lack of whiffs. His SO/9 was at 6.0. Slowly over the past two-plus seasons, that SO/9 has slowly risen to the 9.8 he currently displays. Even that is a huge improvement over the 7.6 of last season and his 7.1 from 2012.

The only issue anyone could have with Cueto’s 2014 would be that he has served up 6 home runs. Then you realize that he has surrendered only 8 runs. During last night’s outing, both runs were scored on solo shots. There could be the day it does cost Cueto and his teammates. That is a result for his FIP being over 3.00 (3.19).

Hard to imagine he continue at this rate while holding a BABIP of .153 as well.

Last season, Cueto spent three separate stints on the disabled list. In his absence, Mat Latos carried the rotation in Cueto’s absence. Thus far in 2014, those roles have been reversed.

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