Can Cutch avoid a second half breakdown in 2013?

After an All-Star campaign in 2011, Andrew McCutchen evolved into one of the best young players in the game with a marvelous 2012. His success was no secret, as he collected numerous awards and achievements along the way. MVP candidate, Gold Glove Award, Silver Slugger, Dapper Dan Sportsman of the Year, MLB 13 The Show cover athlete. Despite his accomplishments, Cutch faltered at the end of the season in both 2011 and 2012. Here’s a look…

- McCutchen entered the All-Star break in 2011 with a .291 avg, 14 homers, and an .894 OPS, earning himself an opportunity to represent the Pirates in Arizona. His second half was a different tale, however, as he hit just .216 in his final 70 games. Cutch’s month of September was particularly abysmal, as he hit only .171 (13 for 76); three of those 13 hits were home runs. His final line: .259/.364/.456 with 23 HR and 89 RBI. He joined the Pirates’ 20-20 club by hitting 23 bombs and stealing 23 bases.

- Cutch absolutely terrorized opponent pitching in 2012 by putting up ridiculous numbers. Although he didn’t hit one out of the park until May 8th, McCutchen posted 31 HR on the year. His most damage was done in 61 games between May 8th and July 17th. He displayed video game numbers in the span, hitting a ridiculous .404 with 11 doubles, four triples, 22 HR, 58 RBI, and a 1.220 OPS. His second half stats are respectable: .289 avg, .860 OPS, 13 home runs. But it simply wasn’t enough from the budding superstar, and don’t let those numbers fool you. He posted a .252 avg with just two homers in August; he hit seven homers in September, but hit just .254. Cutch lost 38 points on his batting average in his last 50 games. His MVP and batting title hopes were lost with two poor months to end the season.

Watching him play down the stretch both of those years, it was quite obvious that McCutchen was drained. He was impressive in the first half each season, but just couldn’t put together a full campaign of greatness. Obviously Cutch still had an amazing season in 2012; .327 avg, 31 HR, 96 RBI, and .953 OPS are nothing to complain about. However, the phrase “the team goes as Cutch goes” was ultimately reflected, with the team collapsing to its 20th consecutive losing season. Without much other star power, McCutchen essentially carries the team for extended periods of time. Therefore, the Bucs need him to contribute every time he steps on the diamond.

That being said, can Cutch pace himself and avoid a meltdown in the second half of 2013? The Pirates are in a good position to win some ballgames this year. Baseball Prospectus projects around 78-79 wins, giving the Buccos a 17% chance at making the postseason. If they want to surge towards October or even finish above .500 for the first time since 1992, the club will need a full year of Cutch.  Hopefully he can save his best for last and bring baseball glory back to the ‘Burgh.

We named him one of our players to watch for 2013.

“I can only promise all of you that I am going to continue to work my hardest to prove that you made the right choice and help bring the World Series trophy back to Pittsburgh.”
Andrew McCutchen on winning the MLB 13 The Show Cover Vote
Photo: Keith Allison/Creative Commons

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  1. Joshua Ruga on February 20, 2013

    Baseball Prospectus is very conservative with their projections for the Pirates players; projections that most of them should be able to outproduce, and I think the team ends up with a win total in the high 80s. Now to the topic at hand, Andrew McCutchen only had a complete game off last year on days where the Pirates played double-headers, all his other “off-days” he either pinch hit or played the field at some point later in the game, and he only had 7 total of these “off-days”. I know McCutchen wants to play every game, but in this age of baseball its not realistic for a player to do what Cal Ripken did. With depth in the outfield in the form of Tabata and Sands, Hurdle should not hesitate to give McCutchen more days off this season, while sliding Marte in centerfield for that day. McCutchen wore down the last two years due to lack of rest, its a simple solution to this problem.

    • fromforbestofederal Author on February 20, 2013

      Excellent points, Joshua. McCutchen definitely needs more days off, especially with the outfield depth. Marte is more than capable of covering center field – he’s been hyped as a better defender than Cutch, in addition to blazing speed and a strong arm. It’s tough to give the star player too much time off, but as you said, it just isn’t realistic to play every day. We’ll see how it plays out.
      Thanks for reading!

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