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Season review: Johnny Cueto

In shocking news, shimmies were involved.

St Louis Cardinals v San Francisco Giants Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Up next in our series of San Francisco Giants reviews: right-handed pitcher Johnny Cueto.

Season stats

12 games (12 starts), 63.1 innings, 61 hits, 26 walks, 3 hit by pitch, 9 home runs, 56 strikeouts, 1.374 WHIP

5.40 ERA, 4.64 FIP, 0.1 rWAR, 0.5 fWAR

Status throughout the season

Cueto began the year on the Opening Day roster, and was the starter on Opening Day. He stayed on the roster the entirety of the season.

Season review

A less-than stellar season from Cueto might have been sad, but it shouldn’t have been disappointing. After a spectacular Giants debut in 2016 — in which he had a 2.95 FIP, started the All-Star Game, and finished sixth in Cy Young voting — Cueto started rolling down the hill.

2017 saw his FIP explode to 4.50, and his rWAR drop from 5.5 to 2.0.

2018 was even worse, and then cut short by Tommy John surgery.

2019 was mostly a rehab year, and when he returned from surgery things weren’t great.

So the glass half full take — which included a glass that was only filled like 10% of the way — was that Cueto would be returning from Tommy John surgery and returning to his All-Star ways. Because that’s totally how it works for 34-year old pitchers recovering from elbow surgery.

And the glass half empty take was that he would keep struggling.

He kept struggling.

That’s not to say there weren’t moments. He had some decent games and some dazzling pitches. He’s Johnny Cueto, after all. That’s what he does.

He did this, for example:

And he did this:

He was worth tuning into, and one of the more fun players on the team.

But check out his run allocation:

0 ER allowed: 0 times
1 ER allowed: 2 times
2 ER allowed: 4 times
3 ER allowed: 1 time
4 ER allowed: 3 times
5+ ER allowed: 2 times

So that’s not good. Not only was he not good on the whole, but he didn’t really have any games where he was really good, which we’ve come to expect of him. By win probability added, his best start was a game in which he allowed just 1 run to the measly Arizona Diamondbacks, but still walked 3 batters and gave up a home run.

He might have been the Opening Day starter, but by the time the season ended he was, at best, the team’s third-best starting pitcher.

Role in 2021

Cueto is owed $21 million next year, plus an additional $5 million in the buyout to avoid paying him $22 million for 2022. So you can pretty much guarantee that he’ll be wearing a Giants jersey next year, and while that might not be great for their roster, it’s good for our sentimentality.

The Giants offseason will determine where Cueto ends up in the rotation, but after his 2020, the front office will surely view him as a back-end starter.


It feels unfair to have made it this far without mentioning that Cueto did eat a lot of innings — more than any other Giants pitcher. Given how weak the bullpen was, that provided a fair amount of value.



How would you grade Johnny Cueto’s season?

This poll is closed

  • 1%
    (5 votes)
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    (3 votes)
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    (15 votes)
  • 19%
    (58 votes)
  • 41%
    (120 votes)
  • 27%
    (79 votes)
  • 2%
    (8 votes)
  • 1%
    (3 votes)
291 votes total Vote Now