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

Johnny Cueto continues his early season mastery

After a masterful Thursday performance, Johnny Cueto asserted that he is the best pitcher in baseball. Having tossed his third complete game of the season, the Cincinnati Reds ace was questioned if he was, in fact, the best in the bigs. I don’t think there’s a lot of debate on this. Right now, Cueto has certainly backed his claim not only with his numbers, but with his voice.

His line from Thursday: CG, 3 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 8 SO, and facing only two batters over the minimum. He lowered his MLB-leading ERA from 1.43 to 1.25. He also lopped a little of his WHIP, lowering it from 0.730 to 0.708.

“I did not know that was something that was there.” he said…

With the current “movement” by some to “kill the win”, Cueto would unquestionably be the early season poster child for such. His record now sits at 4-2. His offense has left him high and dry in not just those two losses, but practically all of his other starts. Run support hasn’t been his best friend. Even after yesterday’s game, his Reds are only 5-4 in games in which he has started, and the Reds ace receives 2.83 runs of support.

Sure, he’s limiting the opponent, but his team’s bats are being limited as well. In the four losses, the Reds have score a total of four runs including two shutouts. So you see, Cueto has to be the guy. And even when he is, there’s no guarantee his team will come out ahead.

And in those nine starts, Cueto has hurled at least seven innings and has not allowed more than two runs in any. That is a feat which has not been seen in over 100 years. The last pitcher to accomplish this was Harry Krause of the Philadelphia A’s. The year was 1909 when Krause did it in 10 straight starts. The record is 11 and that belongs to Mordecai Brown.

And Cueto was unaware of the history he is in the process of making. This from Mark Sheldon of MLB.com):

“I didn’t know that was something that was there,” Cueto said. “Now that I know, I will say, ‘Thank god that I’m the guy doing it after 100 years.’”

But should there be a red flag here? Three complete games in only nine starts? A total of 72 innings pitched for a guy that last season spent three different stints on the disabled list? Is new Reds manager Bryan Price pushing the envelope here?

Could be. For his first three seasons, Cueto had 30 or more starts. Over that same timeframe, the most innings he ever pitched was 185.2. Nary a word on any real or substantial injuries. Then 2011 came and Cueto started the season on the DL. He also missed the last three weeks of the season, too.

But 2012 was the real breakout season as Cueto started a career-high 33 games and 217 innings. Then last season happened.

Can Johnny Cueto endure this workload? Averaging 8 innings per start (72 IP in 9 games? His recent history dictates that he will be unable to sustain it. If Cueto were to stay at this pace, he would amass 264 innings. 264! And taking into account he currently averages 110 pitches an outing, that’s over 3600 for the season.

Then there’s the possibility of the postseason. Should Cincy make it that far, you know Cueto will have to be front and center for the Reds to make any October noise.

So Price is in the middle of the proverbial rock and a hard place. His bullpen has been less than stellar. The club just put Mat Latos on the 60-day DL, although a return early in June is a possibility. Tony Cingrani, currently on the 15-day, is due to return soon. maybe as soon as tomorrow. The team needs their ace.

Should Cueto suffer any injury, I can emphatically state there will be someone, somewhere that will state something along the lines I have already produced here.

Tags: Cincinnati Reds Johnny Cueto NL Central

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