Cincinnati Reds: Why Johnny Cueto Will Regain His Dominance in 2012 NLDS

Evan VogelContributor IIISeptember 30, 2012

CINCINNATI, OH - SEPTEMBER 25: Johnny Cueto #47 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches against the Milwaukee Brewers during the game at Great American Ball Park on September 25, 2012 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Johnny Cueto has had an interesting career. From 2008 through 2010, Cueto was 32-32 over 92 starts, compiling a 4.27 ERA and 1.35 WHIP over 531 innings. His strikeout per nine dropped from 8.2 in his 2008 rookie season down to 6.7 in 2010, while his ERA and WHIP had also decreased significantly.

Cueto has been one of the top pitchers in MLB since the start of the 2011 season, going 28-14 with a 2.56 ERA and 1.14 WHIP over 373 innings and 57 starts. He fell short of his 20th victory on Sunday against the Pittsburgh Pirates, but he is in line to start game one in the NLDS.

While the second half of the 2012 season for Cueto has left a lot to be desired, there is reason for hope for the Cincinnati Reds and their fans.

Over his final three starts, Cueto has allowed just three earned runs (1.35 ERA), and 21 baserunners (1.05 WHIP) in 20 innings.

The success that Cueto had at the end of the season was very important, as were the pitch counts, as the 26-year-old Dominican's previous career high for innings pitched was 185.2 in 2010. After Sunday's start, Cueto will finish the regular season with 217 innings.

Cueto has had issues maintaining his health over his career, beginning and ending the 2011 season on the disabled list with right shoulder issues—missing 84 games in his career due to injuries or minor setbacks.

Because of his inability to stay healthy to this point in his career, the Cincinnati Reds should be pleased with Cueto's first season with 200-plus innings and 33 starts, both career highs.

With a likely matchup against the San Francisco Giants in the NLDS, the Reds seem to be in very good shape with Cueto as their ace. In his career against the Giants, Cueto is 2-1 with a 1.93 ERA over 28 innings. At AT&T Park, Cueto is 1-1 with a 1.38 ERA in two starts, 13 innings.

While the sample size is small, there is a lot to like with how Cueto has performed to close out the season, as well as how he has performed against the potential opponent, the San Francisco Giants. For all of the question marks, including durability, Cueto has what it takes to help the Cincinnati Reds dominate in the playoffs.