"This isnít stats vs scouts - this is stats and scouts working together, building an organization that blends the best of both worlds. This is the blueprint for how a baseball organization should be run. And, whether the baseball men of the 20th century like it or not, this is where baseball is going."---Dave Cameron, U.S.S. Mariner
Can't win with 'em
Can't win without 'em
When you really look at the pitchers who sustain very low ERAs over multiple years, the only way to do it is to strike lots of people out and limit walks -- or do something very extreme regarding inducing weak contact. So far, Cueto's gone the weak contact route, but unlike Matt Cain, Tim Hudson and RA Dickey, it's not exactly clear what he's doing that produces his low BABIP.
Let's look at the qualified pitchers over the last 3 years with the lowest ERA. I was going to take the top 20, but a certain Red was #21, so I included him here.
Can you be a really good pitcher without striking a lot of guys out? Yes. Can you be a really good pitcher while walking guys? Yes. Can you be among the very best without doing both very well -- well, it depends on where you want to draw that line. And if you even want to be in the conversation, you better do something extreme with batted balls.Code:Rank Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP GB% HR/FB ERA FIP ERA-FIP 1 Roy Halladay 772 8.0 1.3 0.66 .296 51% 8.6% 2.57 2.75 -0.18 2 Clayton Kershaw 652 9.4 3.2 0.55 .267 42% 6.1% 2.64 2.89 -0.25 3 Felix Hernandez 774 8.4 2.6 0.62 .280 52% 8.2% 2.67 3.05 -0.38 4 Adam Wainwright 497 8.3 2.3 0.71 .288 51% 9.3% 2.73 3.08 -0.35 5 Josh Johnson 491 8.5 2.6 0.44 .297 49% 5.6% 2.89 2.75 0.14 6 Cliff Lee 705 8.0 1.4 0.68 .296 44% 7.3% 2.90 2.76 0.14 7 Jered Weaver 721 8.1 2.3 0.89 .264 33% 7.2% 2.93 3.33 -0.40 8 Matt Cain 708 7.2 2.6 0.74 .254 39% 6.7% 2.94 3.45 -0.51 9 Chris Carpenter 665 7.0 2.1 0.60 .288 51% 7.4% 3.02 3.20 -0.18 10 Johan Santana 396 7.4 2.6 0.84 .276 35% 6.9% 3.02 3.55 -0.53 11 Justin Verlande 766 9.2 2.4 0.70 .278 39% 7.1% 3.03 2.88 0.15 12 Tim Lincecum 691 9.8 3.2 0.59 .295 48% 7.8% 3.03 2.89 0.14 13 Madison Bumgard 360 7.6 2.1 0.70 .309 47% 7.5% 3.05 3.14 -0.09 14 C.J. Wilson 468 8.0 3.5 0.56 .273 49% 6.9% 3.09 3.38 -0.29 15 Tim Hudson 504 6.1 2.6 0.70 .269 61% 11.2% 3.12 3.74 -0.62 16 R.A. Dickey 424 5.8 2.4 0.83 .274 53% 9.6% 3.18 3.84 -0.66 17 Jaime Garcia 396 7.0 2.9 0.57 .309 55% 7.6% 3.22 3.29 -0.07 18 CC Sabathia 748 8.0 2.5 0.72 .291 47% 8.3% 3.24 3.26 -0.02 19 Wandy Rodriguez 638 8.0 3.0 0.92 .293 46% 10.3% 3.27 3.70 -0.43 20 Cole Hamels 655 8.5 2.1 0.97 .288 46% 10.7% 3.29 3.38 -0.09 21 Johnny Cueto 561 6.5 2.8 0.85 .276 45% 8.6% 3.29 3.97 -0.68 Average 1-5 637 8.5 2.4 0.60 0.286 49% 7.6% 2.70 2.90 -0.20 Average 1-10 638 8.0 2.3 0.67 0.281 45% 7.3% 2.83 3.08 -0.25 Average 1-20 602 7.9 2.5 0.70 0.284 47% 8.0% 2.99 3.22 -0.22
Can you call Cueto an ace? Sure. He's pretty clearly been one of the 30 best pitchers in baseball the last few years. Just make sure you're prepared to call Tim Hudson, Wandy Rodriguez and Jaime Garcia aces as well. And realize that Cueto has the biggest difference between FIP and ERA on this list. If he's going to sustain an ERA lower than the 3.29 of his last 3 years, he's either going to become even more of a FIP outlier or he's going to improve his peripherals because he's getting as much help from his batted balls and defense as he's going to get just to sustain his current ERA average.
Last edited by RedsManRick; 05-10-2012 at 10:07 PM.
Cueto isn't "THAT good" and you seemingly agree. I'm not sure why you're suggesting the analysis was/is heavy handed. But I'm sorry-it is an appropriate part of the discussion and it's been offered respectfully.
Regardless Cueto is having a great season. I'm not sure why that isn't enough?
Is Cueto a scouting ace? No. Is Cueto the Reds ace, as in #1 starter? Yes.
Cueto has the stuff to be a scout's ace, Cy Young type, and we may yet see it, he's only 26. He's not that far off from Santana's or Carpenter's numbers.
Unofficial Johnny Cueto Cy Young Campaign President For Reds Fans by a Reds Fan
Johnny Cueto's Next Start:
JUNE 27, 10:15 PM ET @ AT&T Park
Crushing their heads!
The thing is that over the last 200 innings, the peripherals have informed us that Cueto can't keep this up, and yet he still has. That clearly isn't long enough to draw the conclusion that he will continue with these results, but it's starting to look more and more likely that he can. It is starting to seem like Cueto has developed a new approach to pitching the defies what we thought we knew about the certainty of the impact of peripherals on pitching performance. Maybe the odds of the peripherals will catch up to him eventually, we'll see.
"Man, the pitch looks fast, even in slow motion." Thom Brennaman on Chapman's fastball.
Can't win with 'em
Can't win without 'em
Every time a team has some pitcher who does this the fans say "No wait, our guy is special. He's broken the mold. Just you wait and see. Our guy has figure out the secret sauce that has eluded all of the great pitchers of the last 100 years." So forgive me for being skeptical.
From 2009 to today, just 1 pitcher has sustained a HR/FB under 6% and just 6 under 7%. Last year and this, Cueto is at 5.8% and 4.4%. Do we believe Cueto has HR prevention ability unparalleled in baseball?
From 2009 to today, only 1 pitcher with a GB:FB over 1.10 has a BABIP under .270 (Tim Hudson, with a GB:FB of 2.67). Just two pitchers over that time have a BABIP under .260 and they are two of the most flyball heavy pitchers in baseball (Lilly and Cain). We know for a fact that ground balls are actually more likely to become hits than flyballs, by a significant margin. So being a groundball genius doesn't suggest an abnormally low BABIP. (Brandon Webb had a career BABIP of .286). Cueto put up a. 249 BABIP in 2011 and .253 this year. Do we believe Cueto has a hit prevention ability unparalleled in baseball?
Is it possible that Johnny Cueto has figured out something completely different? I suppose anything is possible. Really, other than his ERA, where is it showing up? I don't mean this to be flip. How is what he's doing on the mound translating in to so few runs and how is that different than what other pitchers have done? How is he doing it?
Maybe he's figure out how to sustain a BABIP of .250. Maybe he's figured out how to allow just a 5% HR/FB. Maybe he's figured out how to strand 90% of his baserunners. But it's very, very unlikely he's figure out something complete new. In my estimation, what's more likely, as you've pointed out, is that he's turned himself in to the type of pitcher who has maximized his ability to affect balls in play, like Tim Hudson or Matt Cain. And we know from a fair amount of experience that, at the edges, pitchers can sustain ERAs up to half a run lower than we would otherwise expect from their peripherals.
With his new windup, I'm willing accept that maybe he's channeling Luis Tiant and his career .261 BABIP. Add in a world class defense that plays to his strengths AND a healthy dose of luck and voila. I would not at all be surprised to see Cueto sustain an ERA around 3.00, especially if he keeps up this K:BB ratio along with very good GB rates (K:BB ratio is far more important than either rate independently).
Don't get me wrong, I think Cueto is a very good pitcher who has clearly changed his approach and gotten good results. I think he's turned himself in to a particular kind of pitcher who can sustain an ERA lower than his FIP. But it's a type of pitcher we're familiar with. And we know the limits of what's possible to sustain. And his 2011 and 2012 thus far are clearly way beyond that. I'll accept the small possibility Cueto is now among the best ever at doing things outside of strikeouts and walks that lead to fewer runs. I just don't think it's remotely reasonable to assert it's likely.
Regarding the "ace" label, if Tim Hudson, RA Dickey and Matt Cain fit your definition of "ace", we should add Cueto to the list. I won't begrudge anybody who wants to put him in that category. But personally, I separate that group from the likes of Roy Halladay, Justin Verlander, Felix Herndandez and Jered Weaver.
Last edited by RedsManRick; 05-11-2012 at 11:29 AM.
You add 2 more Ks per game to Cueto's statline, and suddenly the entire narrative surrounding him changes.
I understand that we're talking about skills and how skills manifest themselves in game, but I have a bit of a tough time wrapping my head around the idea that a pitcher who retires, roughly, 21 batters per start is somehow knocked by the fact that he allows 2 more of those hitters to put a ball in play per game than the competition that he supposedly doesn't measure up to.
23 Years and Counting...
Second, clearly people are entertaining the possibility that Cueto's true skill outperforms his peripherals. In fact even you argued that suggesting otherwise rings hollow and you're still waiting. You can't have it both ways.
Actually, I'm not really sure what your angst in the last several posts is about truthfully.
Cueto is an awesome pitcher to have and as I said earlier in this thread, it's impossible to spin his story as anything other than an unmitigated success story for the Reds. If the best you have is Cueto to go to war with, you're in fine shape. There's nothing offensive about someone suggesting they might chose a different arm if given the hypothetical option.