July 27, 2012
Painting the Black
The Guy With Baseball's Best ERA+ Since 2011
Johnny Cueto is attempting to make history this season. If Cueto’s ERA remains static or improves, he would become the fourth starter* to lower his ERA in four straight seasons, joining Joe Benz, Joe Genewich, and Mudcat Grant. Accolades have been hard to come by for Cueto. His innings totals have left him out in the cold from making an All-Star appearance or receiving a Cy Young vote. The latter should change this year. Before it does, let’s recap the three reasons Cueto is so fun to watch.
Reason No. 1: The Delivery
But the delivery didn’t transform Cueto from bad pitcher to good pitcher: His 2.64 ERA from June 22nd forward actually increased his seasonal mark. What the new delivery did is give Cueto a defining physical characteristic—besides his dreadlocks and stylistic beard-trimmings.
How deceptive is Cueto’s delivery to the batter? On a broadcast earlier this season, Keith Hernandez suggested not very. Hernandez explained that Cueto’s motion is fluid, and smooth. There are no herky-jerky motions, with limbs moving erratically. Cueto just coils and uncoils. Besides, Hernandez said, as a hitter he always focused on the release point, not the pitcher’s pre-release motions.
You might think Cueto’s delivery would be a pitching coach’s nightmare. But then consider that Cueto’s spinning ways were borne from a mechanical concern, as Tyler Kepner explained last July:
Bryan Price, the Reds’ pitching coach, explained that Cueto’s natural momentum had always spun his body toward first after he released a pitch. But his front leg was opening too soon, and Price wanted him to keep his weight back.