Johnny Cueto: Has the Cincinnati Reds' Ace Lost His Confidence?

Cliff Eastham@RedsToTheBoneSenior Writer IIMay 26, 2012

Johnny Cueto
Johnny CuetoJoe Robbins/Getty Images

Johnny Cueto was hit hard and often last night, as the lowly Colorado Rockies dealt him his second loss in his last three starts.

The beginning to Cueto's season had the earmarks of a Cy Young Award-caliber year. After his first seven starts, he boasted an ERA of 1.12 and had a very good H/9 ratio. At that point, he had just given up 39 hits in 48-plus innings, which produced a WHIP of 0.972.

Batters were only hitting .222 against the 26-year-old Dominican.

That was when it appeared that the Cy Young aspirations walked down the road. In his last three starts, he has a record of 1-2.

That isn't even the bad part. He has been hit to the tune of .397 and has given up 27 hits in only 15-plus innings. His WHIP in those games is 2.210. His ERA for that period is 6.89. Quite a turnaround, wouldn't you say?

In two of those three starts, including last night, Cueto has not survived the fifth inning.

What has happened to make a genuine ace turn sour so quickly? Could there be a physical problem that hasn't been announced? Is there something wrong with his mechanics that wasn't displayed in the first seven starts?

In all fairness to Cueto, sandwiched between his really bad starts was a quality start against the New York Yankees last Sunday. He picked up a win and allowed eight hits and two runs in seven innings of work.

Perhaps someone should have told the Rockies, specifically Todd Helton and Troy Tulowitzki, who combined for a 5-8 night with four runs knocked in, how good Cueto is.

Apparently they were unaware, as Helton took him deep in the second inning, digging a hole that the Reds could not come out of.

Players are of course human and they have the same characteristics as most people. Therefore, when a bad patch occurs, they can either let it roll off them like water off a duck's behind or sulk and let the negativity invade them.

If the latter happens, as it did last season with Aroldis Chapman, bad, bad things can transpire. Remember when he could not find the plate? It took a trip to Louisville to get things lined out.

If Cueto is the pitcher most Reds fans hope he is, he will choose the "duck's back" method and start a new season the next time out of the chute.

Because, face it, folks, the Reds need their ace to perform at a top-notch level.