Major League Baseball’s offseason has been slow overall, but the San Francisco Giants have been doing their best to be active following a 98-loss campaign. If you thought they’d go through some kind of rebuild after such a disappointing 2017, they’re doing the complete opposite. Acquiring veteran third baseman Evan Longoria from the Tampa Bay Rays officially signals they’re going for it with their current core in place, but they’ve still got a lot of work to do with this roster. One of the things they’ll be hoping for is starting pitching Johnny Cueto resembling more like the 2016 version of himself instead of the 2017 version. After going 18-5 with a 2.79 ERA, 22.5% strikeout rate, and 5.1% walk rate in 219.2 innings of work during his first year in San Francisco, those numbers dropped to 8-8, 4.52, 21.0%, and 8.2%, respectively. He went from a career-high 5.5 fWAR while being part of a lethal one-two punch with Madison Bumgarner to a much more normal 1.2 fWAR. Now that he’ll be with the organization for the duration of his six-year, $130 million contract after deciding against opting out this winter, what are some areas he’ll need to improve upon heading into 2018? Decline in Secondary Offerings Cueto threw his fastball just 51.2% of the time in 2017, and with a 53.7% usage rate of that pitch throughout his career, we can see that a lot of his success has been predicated on the effectiveness of his secondary pitches. The right-hander’s four-seam fastball wasn’t nearly as good as it’s been in the past (76 wRC+ against in ’16, 112 wRC+ against in ’17), but the bigger dips in performance came via other popular pitches in his arsenal. The below table shows how the walk rate (BB%), strikeout rate (K%), wOBA, and wRC+ have changed over the past two seasons with regard to his sinker, slider, and changeup.
The San Francisco Giants Really Need Johnny Cueto to Rebound in 2018
The Sports Daily | Dec 27