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Monday, December 5, 2022

First Pitch: In Discussing the Best Players in MLB, Andrew McCutchen is Second to One

In 2012, Andrew McCutchen had his first big breakout season, hitting for a .327/.400/.553 line and putting up a 6.8 WAR. The fear at the end of the year, after the Pirates collapsed in the second half, was that McCutchen wouldn’t be able to repeat those numbers in the future, making it impossible for the Pirates to contend in future years.

McCutchen didn’t repeat those numbers the following year. He improved on them. He posted an 8.2 WAR in 2013, thanks to a .317/.404/.508 line, and improved defense. He dropped back to a 6.8 WAR this year, with a .314/.410/.542 line.

At one point in time, the concern was that McCutchen would only put up MVP-level numbers once in his career. Now? McCutchen has emerged as one of the best players in the league. In fact, you could argue that he is the second best player in the game, and the best in the NL.

A look at the last three years shows that Mike Trout is dominating every other hitter in baseball, posting a combined 28.4 WAR. The next best player on that list is McCutchen, who combined for a 21.8 WAR, and is the only other hitter who topped a 20 WAR. Miguel Cabrera (19.8), Robinson Cano (19.0), and Buster Posey (18.2) rounded out the top five. Clayton Kershaw (19.2) is the only pitcher who would crack the top five, although he wouldn’t beat out McCutchen.

Furthermore, in that time period, McCutchen ranks second in baseball in average (.320), OBP (.405), seventh in slugging (.534), fifth in wOBA (.402), and third in wRC+ (160).

There’s nothing that you can really add to these numbers. You just look at the results in amazement. I think everyone knew McCutchen was good. That much is obvious. But I don’t know if anyone really knew he was the second best performer the last three years. The argument has been between Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera, probably because they’ve been competing against each other in the AL MVP races. If you go by WAR, Trout is easily number one, and you could make a strong argument that McCutchen is easily number two in baseball.

For Pirates fans, the perception is a big change from a few years ago. There was a time when McCutchen was seen as just a good player. Then he was a good player who had a career year. Now it’s safe to say he’s one of the best in the game, and the best player in the National League.

Links and Notes

**Pirates Sign Pitcher Chris Peacock

**Pittsburgh Pirates 2014 Center Field Recap: Another MVP Season For McCutchen?

**More High Praise For Tyler Glasnow

**Winter Leagues: Stetson Allie Reaches Base Three Times in Win

**Russell Martin Turned Down a Pirates Mid-Season Extension Offer

**Instructional League Highlights From Reese McGuire, Mitch Keller and More

**The Top 10 Choices For the Pirates’ New Minor League Team Name in Morgantown

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Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.


Pirates Prospects has been independently owned and operated since 2009, entirely due to the support of our readers. The site is now completely free, funded entirely by user support. By supporting the site, you are supporting independent writers, one of the best Pittsburgh Pirates communities online, and our mission for the most complete Pirates coverage available.

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Brian Bernard

He would have to make some adjustments to his game to improve at this point. He continues to seek to pull the ball and in doing so looks laughable at times on the sliders outside. He must look to spray the ball to where it’s pitched more – like Cabrera does. He’d be so dangerous then even Trout’s numbers might come into reach.
As far as the attitude, he’s continued to be a likable player, but at times (This is just my opinion) I feel like he’s not opening up and really letting himself enjoy the success. He really looked tight this year, even in the champagne spray he seemed to be standoff-ish I thought. (Again just my perception). Maybe that’s just him holding himself to a higher standard, but the smile seems forced at times and that’s a shame if that’s true. Just something I’ve noticed.
I for one though have enjoyed watching him as a fan daily on TV and also in person in 2013 chanting MVP while he hit a HR – he’s been one of – if not THE reason to go to PNC park. I really hope he eventually gets the opportunity for a championship.


In addition to piraddict’s theory, there is the possibility that McCutchen isn’t satisfied with winning the Wild Card, especially since it’s been done. Thus he had to force himself to look happy during the champagne celebration. Maybe he’ll be more genuinely happy if he ever gets to celebrate a pennant or World Series championship.


Maybe Cutch has the more introverted, private personality of an artist who doesn’t like crowded situations that require extroversion of your personality. People are different.


I’ve noticed some of the same things. He’s a much better hitter when he uses right-center.


He should think right center at every at bat, his bat speed will still let him turn on an inside pitch when it’s fat.


I have to note that given the 1 and 2 spots both got on base significantly more in 2014 than last year, I’m disappointed Cutch didn’t get closer to 100 RBI.

Scott Kliesen

Is it feasible he hasn’t had a career year yet? Wouldn’t surprise me in the least for him to have a .330/.420/.600 season in ’15 or ’16.

Ian Rothermund

I think that’s very possible if he has other talented hitters around him as protection and to spread out the lineup

Scott Kliesen

You’re right on the money Ian. We saw evidence of this very thing in September with Harrison & Snider hitting well in front of him, and Walker/Martin & Marte behind him.

Frank Brank

There’s no evidence that lineup construction matters. Even Andrew McCutchen has a scouting report that shows his weaknesses. Teams aren’t going to throw him middle of the plate because Neil Walker is standing on deck.


Thank you. The protection logic for a guy like Cutch just kills me.

Ian Rothermund

It’s not necessarily about individual pitches, or that they would just walk him every single time, or throw meatballs down the middle of the plate. It’s a lot easier to game plan for an individual player when everyone around that player sucks.

How many times did opposing pitchers say that about the Red Sox and the Yankees when they were great? That the lineup is relentless…it wears down a pitcher more-so than a team with a singularly good player. Also, a strong overall lineup helps individual players to avoid the mind set that they personally have to make an impact every single AB; that they have to be the hero every time they walk up. That approach is not at all conducive to long term success.

I have a hard believing that lineup construction doesn’t matter. It’s not even about one game, or one series, but over 162 games, it will make an impact. Anybody else remember how Cutch finished those first couple full seasons at the major league level? Oh yeah, terribly…because he was the only good player on the team going up with a terrible approach trying to win the game with every swing.

Brian O'Donnell

He also handles himself with class. We are lucky to have him representing our organization.


Unlike Trout Cutch’s Head and Cabrera’s have not grown in size. Just saying.

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