Welcome back for the second time today, guys. If you watched the World Series game last night, or follow any sort of baseball-inclusive media outlet on any form of media (seriously, even a “newspaper” would’ve probably mentioned this) you’re aware that Johnny Cueto was dominant against the Mets yesterday. By virtue of the previous conditions, you’re probably also aware that Johnny Cueto has had some games where he’s been not-so-dominant. Quite bad, actually. If you’re a regular reader of this blog (I appreciate all six of you dearly) you might know that last time Cueto pitched was in the ALCS, and he stunk, and after that outing I wrote a little article. I would suggest you familiarize yourself with the basic idea of that article before delving into this one, but you don’t have to. that’s your prerogative, it’s a free world. I’m just glad you’re here in the first place. Anyways, let’s get right down to it.
The first thing we looked at in the previous article was Cueto’s pitch usage. We saw that in ALDS Game 5, when Cueto tossed eight two-hit innings against the Astros, he looked like a very complete pitcher. He primarily used his fastballs (four-seam, two-seam, cutter) but also mixed in a healthy numbers of changeups and sliders, as well as the occasional curveball. In the two other starts he made, one of which was mediocre at best and the other of which was horrendous, Cueto’s repertoire was far less diverse. Leaning primarily on his fastballs (mostly two- and four-seams), it was easy to see just from the usage statistics that Cueto didn’t have feel for his offspeed pitches on those nights which he got lit up. Whether he got hit because he didn’t have his offspeed, or he didn’t have his offspeed because he was getting hit remains to be seen. The conclusion we are able to draw is that when Cueto has his offspeed pitches working and uses them, he’s been effective. So, knowing all that, it’d be fairly safe to guess that Cueto’s offspeed pitches were working last night. You would be correct. According to Brooks Baseball, Cueto threw 62 fastballs (Brooks and Baseball Savant tend to disagree on distinguishing between four-seams and two-seams, but that’s not important now), 18 cutters, 15 changeups, 20 sliders, and 7 curveballs on Wednesday night. This is pretty close to a 50/50 split between his primary pitches and his secondary pitches, which is a good thing to see. Moving on.
Last time we took a look, then, at the location breakdown between the three types of Cueto fastballs. I believe that it would be quite useful to do so again in this case. Here they are:
Start #4 – 10/28/15 vs. New York Mets
Last time we figured out that Cueto’s fastball location was of high importance to his success (duh) and found just what locations those were that worked for him. We found that his two-seam was most effective on his arm-side, which the natural way for a pitch that runs to move. His four seam and cutter were most effective when used oppositely from his two-seam, on his glove-side. He also had success using the four-seam as a pitch to to get people out up in the zone. As we can see from the graphs, Cueto’s two-seam was right in line with where he finds success. If we drew a line down the middle of the “strike zone” in this graph, the vast majority of the pitches would end up on Cueto’s glove-side. While there were more pitches that were closer to the middle of the strike zone, as a whole Cueto worked them lower than he had on the 14th against Houston, which buys you more room for error horizontally. Johnny threw far more four-seamers last night than he did that night against Houston, but again the majority were either on the glove-side of the plate or up in the zone. Lastly, we look at the chart of Cueto’s cutters. It doesn’t look great, because it’s not. Generally, you’d like to see that pitch a bit lower and more consistently away from right-handers. Luckily for Cueto and the Royals, sometimes you get away with poor location when you mix your pitches well (especially when you have six pitches).
Cueto definitely had it all working on Wednesday night, and it couldn’t have come at a better time for the Royals on the heels of Tuesday’s 14-inning contest. If all goes according to plan for the Royals, Cueto won’t have to pitch again in the series. However, if he can harness what he had last night again, it’d be fun to watch him close out the series with another dominant outing at Kauffman Stadium (plus it’d line up exactly with my series prediction… a perfect storm of goodness) in Game 6. Thanks for reading, and be sure to contact me with any questions, concerns, corrections, suggestion, criticisms, or anything at all (literally anything, I’ll probably respond). I can be reached via comments on the blog, on Twitter @MRRblog, or on Facebook as “Middle Relief Report”. Also be sure to share, retweet, like or favorite anything you like from us – it not only provides positive feedback, but helps us reach a larger audience!
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