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Cincinnati Reds: Making Johnny Cueto's Case for the 2012 Cy Young

CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 12:  Johnny Cueto #47 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches against the Chicago Cubs in the first inning August 12, 2012 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
David Banks/Getty Images
Tyler DumaFeatured Columnist IIIJuly 19, 2016

Talk around Bleacher Report and other major sporting news outlets has R.A. Dickey as the "runaway," "slam dunk" winner of the 2012 NL Cy Young Award.

One pitcher has been significantly overlooked and pushed aside in favor of Dickey. That pitcher is Johnny Cueto.

Though not totally forgotten, Cueto seems to, inexplicably, be losing ground to Dickey and even his own teammate Aroldis Chapman. Not to take anything away from either of the two, as they've both had remarkable seasons in their own right, but Cueto is deserving of the award.

Cueto has an impressive stat line in 2012.

Through 24 starts, Cueto has staked out a 15-6 record with a 2.45 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 127 strikeouts in 161.2 innings pitched. His 15 wins are tied with Dickey for most in the NL and his 2.45 ERA is second best to Jordan Zimmermann's 2.38.

The big thing holding Cueto back from major Cy Young notoriety is his strikeout totals. He currently has 48 less than Dickey's 175. 

Cueto also leads Dickey and all other NL pitchers in WAR at 5.3 (per Baseball-Reference).

Here's a full comparison of Cueto and Dickey (values underlined indicate NL leader, bold indicates better of the two pitchers).

Name W-L ERA ERA+ WHIP K WAR WPA Ltuf RS/G BAa OBPa SLGa
Johnny Cueto 15-6 2.45 172 1.16 127 5.3 2.7 4 4.0 .250 .302 .342
R.A. Dickey 15-4 2.89 133 1.04 175 3.7 1.4 1 5.3 .225 .276 .362

A quick explanation of several categories is in order. ERA+ is an ERA measurement adjusted for a player's ballpark. The higher the number, the better.

WPA is win probability added. According to Baseball-Reference's definition, WPA is "the change in probability" given average teams.

Ltuf is tough losses. A tough loss is a loss in which a quality start is recorded.

Finally, RS/G is run support per game. It's quite simply the average number of runs in support a pitcher receives per start.

So, the two are deadlocked in wins. Cueto leads Dickey in ERA, ERA+, WAR, WPA, Ltuf and SLGa.

Dickey leads Cueto in WHIP, K, RS/G, BAa and OBPa.

When comparing two pitchers, the most noticeable statistics are ERA+, WAR, WPA, tough losses and run support per game.

Cueto pitches in a far tougher stadium while posting a better ERA, giving him the better ERA+ number. Cueto is also 1.5 wins better than an average replacement (WAR) than Dickey is.

Cueto is 1.3 wins better than Dickey in WPA, meaning on an average team, Cueto would win 1.3 more games.

Cueto has logged four tough losses this season. Had his team hit for him, this would put Cueto's record anywhere between its current 15-6 mark and 19-2. Dickey has only one tough loss.

Finally is Cueto's SLGa. Dickey may allow less hits and less runners on base, but Cueto strands more runners and allows less extra-base hits than Dickey. This is most evident in their home runs allowed. Dickey has allowed 16, Cueto has allowed eight.

Cueto is currently leading his team toward a division title. Dickey however has regressed significantly since the All-Star break.

I'll leave you all to make your own decision. But consider two final things.

First, ESPN's projections for Dickey and Cueto:

Name Wins Loses Innings ERA WHIP BAA SO HR
Johnny Cueto 21 8 221.2 2.45 1.16 .250 174 11
R.A. Dickey 21 5 231.1 2.89 1.04 .225 240

22

And finally, the winning percentages of each pitcher's remaining probable opponents.

Cueto: .459

Dickey: .478

The remaining starts will dictate the winner, and Cueto has a slight advantage.

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