Andrew McCutchen Drops Slightly in Center Field Rankings

MLB Network began their rankings of the best ten players at each position on Thursday night. Last year, Andrew McCutchen got the surprise nod for the top center fielder, beating out Mike Trout. That ranking ended up looking bad, as Trout had another outstanding season and McCutchen had a down year by his own standards. That down year was reflected in the new rankings, as McCutchen dropped to fourth overall for center fielders, slipping behind Trout, A.J. Pollock and Lorenzo Cain.

McCutchen was hurt by defensive metrics, which rate him as one of the worst center fielders in the game. He still posted a 4.8 WAR due to his .292/.401/.488 slash line. Other guests on the show weren’t as tough on McCutchen, as both Brian Kenny and Eric Byrnes had him ranked second overall, while three other guests also disagreed with the #4 ranking.

They covered shortstops in the second episode and Jordy Mercer wasn’t among the top 15 names considered after finishing sixth last year.

  • Great photo David Hague.

  • I’m not sure there is anyone in their right mind who would take Cain and Pollock over McCutchen if given the choice. If you want to say they had better years last year, then I can get behind that, but they certainly aren’t better players. They are about the same age and last year was their first years that were All-Star level.

    McCutchen is not a great CFer, but I think he is better in the eye test to me. He takes some bad routes at times and his arm is weak, but I wonder how much the position impacts the defensive ratings.

    • I know defensive stats are volatile, but it’s hard to understand how he was a top-10 defensive CF in 2011 and 2013 and very near the bottom every other year. Looking at the years 2009-2015 with a min innings of 4000, he’s 17th of 20.

      I’ve heard it said he plays deep, so I’d also like to know is that the reason he’s so low on these rankings, or do our eyes really deceive us?

      (the aforementioned stats: http://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=cf&stats=fld&lg=all&qual=4000&type=1&season=2015&month=0&season1=2009&ind=0&team=0&rost=0&age=0&filter=&players=0 )

      • Thanks NMR I think this really hits the spot. The only thing I would change is I believe Cutch plays deep because he likes to. I don’t thinks its because the Pirates want him so deep. I think his defensive skills have eroded and I think his cavalier attitude on a number of balls hit his way cost the Bucs numerous bases as smart runners took advantage of his relaxed style of play.

        • Couldn’t agree more, Bob.

          You cannot tell me that some schmo on ESPN is smart enough to figure this out but the entire team of analysts working under Dan Fox are oblivious. Of course they know, but it’s Cutch, and Cutch does what he wants.

          • ….that really pisses me off.

          • The poor decisions with the throws are definitely on Cutch, but the Pirates are very involved in defensive alignments, and stats tend to suggest teams with that approach tend to give up more singles but take away more extra base hits, so it’s distinctly possible the team is intentionally playing Cutch deep in accordance with that sort of defensive philosophy.

            Since the numbers suggest now over a couple year span that it’s at best a break-even strategy and at-worst hurts the team in run prevention, it will be interesting to see if the Bucs try to bring Cutch in a bit.

            Ovearll, though, it’s tough to see a healthy Cutch (not the baserunning-inhibited Cutch playing through and coming off a knee injury we saw last year) not being a better all-around player than Pollock and Cain, given the much longer track record. He’ll never catch a healthy Mike Trout, though, that’s for sure.

            • Cutch makes some bad decisions, but I think the arm issues and some of the extra bases are in part to the depth that he plays. If someone told my Cutch was an average CFer I would buy that, if they said he was among the league worst, I have a hard time seeing that. No gold glover, but the guy gets to some balls that few can get to. I think that is hard to quantify.

              I also think the pirates look at certain situations different than other teams. letting a baserunner go is different to them, look at the way they have played it when runners attempt steals.

            • I think McCutchen plays deep because he is really bad at going back on the ball. I think he is a great fielder laterally and does solidly coming in, but he is very timid near the wall. Once he hits the warning track, he almost never aggressively goes after a ball.

            • He played more singles into doubles than he saved with his deep alignment.

        • 100% agreed

        • Cutch is supposed to have said very early in his career that he would never have a ball hit over his head that stayed in the park…
          The combination of playing deep and having a weak arm cost the Bucs as many runs last year than Pedro’s errors…

      • This is amazing!!!!!!!!!

    • Cutch needs to study some Bonds tape. Bonds had a weak arm, but learned how to charge everything and never took a play off in the outfield. Cutch is quite honestly lazy and lacks urgency out there on routine plays. Someone needs to get in his face when he does that. Maybe its a coach, make it’s Gerritt Cole, I really don’t care, but Cutch COULD be a decent center fielder, but with his speed, he should be playing mid depth with his weak arm if he is left there.

  • Jordy Mercer is not in top half of all SS in baseball.

    • Nope, wasn’t even mentioned on the show except to say he fell off last year’s list. He did do better than two players from last year’s list, but there is a lot of young talent at shortstop now. The average age of the top ten shortstops went from 30 last year to 25 this year, and that’s with the repeat players from last year’s list being a year older(meaning the guys who entered the list this year were even younger than 25 on average)

      • Surprise surprise, I was never on the Mercer bandwagon. He is a punch-in-judy hitter that can pick em.

        • Well 12 homers in 2014 doesn’t make him a punch and judy hitter, but the 2015 version was. I think 2016 injury free would be more around the 12 homer mark and a .710-.720 OPS. We will see.

    • Btwn the injury from the ty cobb drop kick slide and kang getting a huge chunk of the playing time, I’m not surprised mercer was so low on the list.

  • IS there any data on what would Cutch’s WAR be as a LF and what would Marte’s WAR be a CF?

    • It’s really hard to tell..the positional adjustment would shift from 2.5 for CF to -7.5 in LF, but obviously, the LF isn’t expected to cover as much ground. If I had to guess, I’d guess it’d be fairly neutral for Cutch and maybe hurt Marte just a bit. I only guess that because I think Marte’s range in LF is far better than most and he’d be just above average in CF.

      • There is no reason to believe that Marte would be just above average in Center Field.

        • Disagree, Marte would be the Pirates best option at CF and he has the better and accurate arm. The FO does not want to upset Cutch by moving him to left,

          • Joel- are you thinking that I’m saying that because I think he is worse than “just above average”?? – dude, I think he’d be a top 5 defensive cf in the majors, not “just above average”

  • The overall quality of the Pirates infield is going to be a concern the next several years. It should be better this year but still middle of the pack.

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