Johnny Cueto was as good as it got this past season for the Reds but despite becoming the franchise’s first 20-game winner since 1988 he still finished as runner-up to Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers in balloting for the National League Cy Young award.
The award, based solely on regular season stats, was announced Wednesday night. Kershaw was a unanimous winner, collecting all 30 first-place votes in balloting done by the Baseball Writers Association of America. Cueto garnered 23 of the 30 second-place votes, six third-place votes and one fourth place.
Adam Wainwright of St. Louis finished third in the balloting.
Cueto went 20-9 with a 2.25 ERA in 34 starts and 243 2/3 innings as he cast aside any health concerns that might have remained from an injury-riddled 2013 season. That includes going 13-4 with a 1.71 ERA in hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park in 18 starts. He finished with four complete games (two shutouts), produced quality starts in 29 of his 34 appearances and 25 times he allowed two earned runs or fewer.
He was 12-5 in games after a Reds loss. He got win No. 20 on the last day of the season in a 4-1 win against playoff-bound Pittsburgh by pitching eight innings and driving in the go-ahead run in the eighth inning to break a 1-1 tie.
Cueto was fourth in Cy Young balloting in 2012 after going 19-9 with a 2.78 ERA but three trips to the disabled list in 2013 limited him to just 11 starts that season as he went 5-2 with a 2.82 ERA.
No Reds pitcher has ever won a Cy Young award. Danny Jackson was runner-up in 1988 when he went 23-8 with a 2.73 ERA in 35 starts, which included 15 complete games and six shutouts. In circumstances similar to Cueto this season, Orel Hershiser of Los Angeles was a unanimous winner that season despite Jackson’s outstanding numbers. Jackson was the last Reds pitcher to win 20 games before Cueto this season.
Cueto finished ranked in the top four in 12 different statistical categories, including tying for the National League in starts (with Stephen Strasburg of Washington and A.J. Burnett of Philadelphia) and strikeouts (Strasburg), leading the NL in innings pitched, opponents’ batting average (.194) and day ERA (1.52) while ranking second in ERA and tied for second in wins.