Despite signing a six-year, $130MM deal with the Giants in the offseason, right-hander Johnny Cueto’s excellence in San Francisco has somehow flown under the radar, opines Sarah Langs of ESPN.com. Not only has Cueto pitched to a 2.38 ERA across 75 2/3 innings this year, but he has done it while giving the Giants length, as Langs writes. Cueto is tied for the league lead with superstars Clayton Kershaw and Chris Sale in complete games (three), and he’s second to Kershaw in seven-inning starts (nine). His changeup has been particularly dominant, as Cueto has induced swings and misses a career-best 44 percent of the time with it. Batters have hit a paltry .175 against the pitch and Cueto has fanned 29 hitters while deploying it with two strikes, which ranks behind only Stephen Strasburg. When batters have put Cueto’s changeup in play, they’ve hit it on the ground 74 percent of the time.
More from the National League:
- Righty Mike Leake potentially could have signed with the Nationals before inking a five-year, $75MM deal with the Cardinals over the winter, but he told Bill Ladson of MLB.com that the timing wasn’t right. Leake, an Arizona native, was hoping to join the Diamondbacks when the Nats pursued him. “The Nationals came into the process during that time. It was almost bad timing. I was still feeling something out. I respected that the Nationals came early and tried to get me early. It just didn’t seem right at the time,” said Leake, who considers Nationals manager Dusty Baker a “big-time mentor” thanks to their time together in Cincinnati from 2010-13.
- Pirates skipper Clint Hurdle didn’t shoot down the idea of moving right-hander Juan Nicasio to the bullpen when asked about it Sunday, tweets Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Nicasio, who has 77 big league innings in relief under his belt, will continue in the rotation for now. However, with the Super Two cutoff nearing, it stands to reason his spot could soon be in jeopardy if the Bucs go the expected route and promote top prospects Tyler Glasnow and Jameson Taillon. Nicasio put himself in danger of a demotion by following a solid April with four mediocre to poor May starts. The 29-year-old allowed 15 earned runs on 28 hits in 20 May innings, though he did pick up 18 strikeouts against six walks. All told, Nicasio owns a 4.79 ERA, 9.00 K/9 and 3.45 BB/9 through 47 frames.
- Phillies manager Pete Mackanin has “been conscious of” the team’s offensive shortcomings all season, he said after their 4-1 loss to the Cubs on Saturday (via Cody Stavenhagen of MLB.com). “You look at the Cubs, the Tigers, they’ve got the home run. They’ve got power. They have threats to do damage. We haven’t been able to do that,” he stated. Only the Braves have hit fewer home runs than the Phillies, whose team ISO is also second from the bottom (again, only Atlanta’s is worse). The Phillies are also 29th in runs scored (take a wild guess who’s last), but Mackanin is nonetheless confident they can continue staying in games because of their pitching. Thanks to their rotation and late-game relievers like Jeanmar Gomez, Hector Neris and David Hernandez, the Phillies are a respectable 26-23 and have gone a terrific 14-4 in one-run games. Having such resounding success in close affairs will only become more difficult without improved offensive production, however.