Johnny Cueto’s 2018 season was ended after just nine starts due to Tommy John surgery. During that too-brief run, Cueto pitched quite well and was a lone bright spot in a season already mired with an injury carousel that would never stop turning.
It’s hard to fully evaluate his 2019 season, as he only pitched four games. You could look at his 5.06 ERA, but that’s a very small sample size. He could dumb it down to simply say that he had two very good starts before two very not-so-good starts.
In his first two games, he went five innings each in which he allowed no earned runs and only gave up four hits, with three walks and six strike outs. His third start lasted four innings, in which he allowed four earned runs on two hits and five walks (with five strike outs). And in his final game, against the Dodgers on the last Friday night of the season, he only went two innings, in which he gave up five runs in the second. Not exactly the “leave them wanting more” method, but his return wasn’t necessarily about how well he would pitch after more than a year’s worth of recover.
Role on the 2019 team
Cueto’s return to the team was less about contribution than it was about giving him a tune-up and giving the team (and fans) a much-needed morale boost. Obviously, they wanted to get him going and see where he was at, pitching-wise. But after July’s attempt at relevance and fell short, it was clear the Giants didn’t need him to produce quality starts. They needed to remind people that he was, in fact, still on the team and still fun to watch.
Fun was something that ended up being missing for a lot of the final stretch. Despite a fever dream of playoff potential in July, the team was....not good after that. And with the loss of Pablo Sandoval, sadly also to Tommy John surgery, Cueto’s electric presence and delightful pitching style filled a void.
Role on the 2020 team
Cueto will, barring any unforeseen circumstances, be in the rotation next year. He’s not high on the list of trade targets, coming off of the injury he was recovering from and not having enough time to settle into a full season. And he’s got two guaranteed years left on his contract.
The question will be where in the rotation he finds himself. If the Giants retain Madison Bumgarner, or target another ace pitcher on the free agency market, Cueto will likely continue to be second in the rotational depth chart. If they don’t, he could find himself as the ace.
How “Farhan” is Johnny Cueto?
Zero Farhans. Wait, that’s not an option. Half, then. And I don’t care. He may be on a contract that might seem undesirable to some on this end of it. He may be on the down slide of his career for all I know. But he is delightful and I am very fond of him.