Blue Jays Game 3 Scouting Report – Johnny Cueto

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After dropping the first two games on the road, the Blue Jays look to take a crucial game three against the Royals on Monday. One of the shining spots on the Blue Jays pitching staff, Marcus Stroman, takes the mound in Game three against the righty Johnny Cueto. Cueto has pitched two games in the 2015 posteason, going 1-0 in 14.0IP with a 3.86ERA. The Blue Jays bats will need to be sharper than the first two games, and scoring runs early against Cueto will be vital to a game three Blue Jays win

Cueto was signed as an amateur free agent by the Cincinnati Reds in 2004, and flourished into a starter in their system. Cueto would pitch in the minors in his first three years, breaking out in 2007 being promoted from High-A Sarasota to AAA Louisville all in one season. Cueto would finally crack the Reds pitching staff in 2008, but it wasn’t until 2010 that people realized Cueto would become a bonafide MLB star. From 2011-2014, Cueto would go on a stretch where he would pitch to an ERA of under 3.00, pitch 200+IP in two of those years, and have a WAR over 4.0 in two of those seasons. Amazing numbers to say the least.

Cueto, in 2014, would make his first All-Star appearance, was the NL Strikeout leader, and was second in NL Cy Young voting to Clayton Kershaw. It looked like Cueto was poised to be Cincinnati’s star pitcher for multiple years to come, but entering free agency, it became evident that he would not re-sign long term with the Reds.

In 2015, Cueto would be traded to the Royals five days before the July 31st deadline for Cody Reed, Brandon Finnegan, and John Lamb. Cueto would get off to a hot start with Kansas, throwing a four-hit shutout against the Tigers. Unfortunately, Cueto would struggle with his new team during the second half of the season, posting a 4.76ERA in 13 starts.

*Cueto’s 2015 First Half and Second Half Splits

Johnny Cueto gets it done with a big arsenal of pitches, relying heavily on his Fourseam Fastball, mixing in a Cutter, Slider Change. Cueto also has a Curveball, but has thrown that pitch very rarely this season. Cueto lives using his Fourseamer with a wFA of 14.4, but Cueto isn’t going to blow you away with velocity (vFA 92.2). Cueto does it in two ways; 1. Pitching up and in on hitters 2. His unorthodox pitching style.

Cueto’s pitching style has come under some controversy this year. In that four hit shutout against the Tigers, Tigers manager Brad Ausmus argued with home plate umprire Joe West throughout the game about Cueto’s pitching style, calling out Cueto’s windup pause for being a balk. Ausmus said after the game, “Really, the way the rule reads, you’re not supposed to even alter your motion.That’s the way the rule reads. They don’t enforce it. Well, he said if he stops it’s an illegal pitch.” per ESPN.com.

That video is a little bit of an exaggeration of what Cueto does normally on his windup, but this clearly illustrates what Ausmus is talking about, which by the way is not a balk. Yet another great example of why Ausmus should be fired in the offseason. Cueto’s flair is what makes him great though! Even in his regular pitching motion, Cueto takes an incredibly deep windup putting his entire back to the batter. The benefit to having a long windup is the ability to mix up your speeds to the plate. Cueto can shorten it and basically “quick pitch” on his standards, and then he can use the shimmy and shake move to lengthen the windup. Cueto’s pitching style keeps batters timing off and just plain confused.

One thing the Jays have going for them in this game is that there’s going to be another after this one. This isn’t a five game series! These Royals are a very, very good team and going into this series I said to myself, “This is probably going to go down to seven games.” Even though Cueto wasn’t great coming down the stretch this season, he has proven that he has shown up for the postseason.

Against Cueto, the Jays will need to be particularly patient at the plate, trying to force walks as often as possible. Since a lot of Cueto’s pitches are up and in, waiting for that occasional Fastball or Cutter that is lower and finds too much of the plate will be key. (I know this is such an obvious statement, but it couldn’t be more true in this situation).

Stats Provided by Fangraphs

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