A Money Pitch in 2018, Cueto kept his swinging-strike rate (16.3%) and zone rate (46.9%) above the benchmarks, but missed on his chase rate after it dipped from 46.1% to 34.6% in 2019. Still, the changeup held opponents to a .188 BAA, although a .200 BABIP points to some good fortune for Cueto.
While time has sapped velocity from the fastball Cueto dealt in his prime, his heater was actually up a tick (averaging 91.2 mph, 25th percentile on Statcast) from where it was (90.5 mph) during an injury-shortened 2018. A 27.3% walk rate shows Cueto was still trying to harness his command after returning from Tommy John surgery.
*Neither Statcast or Fangraphs shows Cueto throwing a cutter in 2019.
Opposing batters put Cueto’s slider in the air to the tune of a 57.1% fly-ball rate, which was playing with fire during a season where the baseball was extra bouncy. Cueto will look to bring the fly-ball rate back near his career average (29.8%) and trim a 25% HR/FB rate.
The changeup was his best pitch last season at a 3.1 pVal. It was his Money Pitch with a 19.5% swinging-strike rate, 41% zone rate, and 46.1% outside swing rate. It held hitters to a .196 BAA, with more ground balls than liners and fly balls combined.
The slider regained some of its drop but lost some horizontal movement last season. Hitters only hit .244, but the lack of deception led to a career-high 30 HR/FB%. While still effective, this pitch does not carry the strikeout potential it used to earlier in his career.
Continuing injury woes and age have hurt Cueto’s fastball. Batters swung and miss at the pitch less often than normal and made more contact, but Cueto managed to limit good contact and hold hitters to a measly .185 BAA. He allowed a career-high fly-ball rate, but that was kept in check with a high infield fly-ball rate. Despite losing velocity for the fifth straight season, this is still an effective pitch.
Cueto also threw a sinker, which was far less effective than his fastball. It posted a negative pVal while hitters hit over .360 for the second straight season. The pitch lost some of its inside run to righties, leading it to stay in the zone and hitters not swinging and missing. Losing velocity and movement could spell doom for this offering.
Cueto rarely throws the curve, only about 1% of the time after not throwing it at all in 2017. It is an ok pitch, holding hitters to a career .260 BAA. Not much to see here with how little it’s being used.