After his second performance against his new rival Dodgers, Johnny Cueto showed the Giants why they invested $130 million in him. The funky right-hander took a perfect game into the fifth inning and ended up surrendering one run in seven innings while striking out seven. He also added a hit of his own top off his night.
Cueto has just three starts with San Francisco and has gone at least 7 innings in all of them. His first start was in Milwaukee where he gave up one run in seven innings while striking out four. His second start he gave up 6 runs in the first inning, but still went seven innings while striking out eight. He even earned a standing ovation from the crowd for his perseverance.
His 3.38 ERA and 2.06 FIP start might be surprising to people due to his rough patch in Kansas City last season, but he did have a sub three ERA the same year with the Reds. He gave up 4.76 runs per nine in 81 innings after being traded from Cincinnati and struggled at times in the postseason, but was still able to land a big pay day. Two things that scared people this offseason was that his strikeout rate plummeted and his walk rate more than doubled while his velocity went down over one mile per hour. Those are real concerns, but so far in this incredibly small sample size his rates back at his career norm.
This was Cueto’s pitch breakdown after the trade to Kansas City last July:
And this is his 2016 breakdown with the Giants:
His sinker frequency has gone down over ten percent while his four-seam and change-up frequencies have increased. Even though he stopped throwing his sinker as much, his ground ball rate regressed from 38.6 percent, after the trade, to 44.1 percent, his career rate. Saturday night at Chavez Ravine he was throwing like “Cincinnati Cueto” and struck out Corey Seager on a 95 MPH fastball on the corner. In each of his starts this year his fastball velocity has increased from 91.57 in Milwaukee, 91.82 in San Francisco, and 93.36 in Los Angeles.
Cueto has been using different windups more often the past couple seasons and I don’t think he even knows what he’s going to do until he does it. In that situation, Turner didn’t start his leg kick earlier, but it was a hanging two-strike slider over the plate. Maybe if Cueto is using his “normal” windup he doesn’t get a weak line-out.
It’s only three starts and he’s yet to give up a big fly, but his velocity has been increasing and he has 1,400 innings of 3.30 ERA under his belt.