I can't say enough great things about Johnny Cueto's start last night. How impressive was that? Seven shutout innings against one of the toughest offenses in baseball and it was on the road. On top of his great pitching, he was 2-for-2 at the plate. That bunt single he dropped down was a thing of beauty. Kid is a great athlete. I'd say Cueto is one of the five fastest players on the team.
Last night was Johnny Cueto's 34th major league start, which is about a full seasons worth of starts. Let's take a look at his numbers over those 34 starts:
191.2 IP, 192 H, 30 HR, 75 BB/173 K, 4.60 ERA, 98 ERA+
9.0 H/9, 3.5 BB/9, 8.1 K/9, 2.31 SO/BB
Basically, Cueto has been a league average starter through his first 34 starts. That's very impressive when you factor in three things:
1. He just turned 23 years old in February
2. He had just 83 innings of experience above High-A
3. He had the worst/second worst defense in all of baseball behind him last season
His 8.1 K/9 is an outstanding strikeout rate, especially when you consider his youth. His walk rate isn't bad (it's better than Zambrano's and right in line with Lincecum) but I think it will drop as Johnny matures as a pitcher. Cueto was known for his great control in the minors (2.1 BB/9 in minors). The hits should decline too as he learns to hit his spots more consistently.
I've been tracking Cueto since 2006 and I've always thought he was going to be something special. I think the sky is the limit with this kid. All he's lacking at this point is experience. I think he'll improve this season but he'll still have some ups and downs. With another year of experience under his belt, I expect 2010 to be his breakout season.