Andrew McCutchen wins Most Valuable Player

Andrew McCutchen NL MVP 2013

For the first time since 1992, Pittsburgh is home to the National League’s Most Valuable Player.

After another outstanding season, Bucs’ star Andrew McCutchen has received the league’s highest individual honor. He took home the Silver Slugger and Players Choice NL Outstanding Player last week; the MVP is now the latest addition to Cutch’s collection.

He hit .317 with a .911 OPS in 157 games, tacked on 27 stolen bases and 97 runs, plus played sharp defense. At 8.2 wins above replacement, McCutchen truly was the most valuable player in the National League.

cutch hit0001

He wins the award over Paul Goldschmidt and Yadier Molina, two deserving candidates. But you can’t go wrong with the selection of McCutchen, one of the best talents in all of baseball right now. The “Pirates go as Cutch goes” moniker held true this season… 94 wins and a postseason berth are unlikely without his presence.

Isn’t it fun to watch him play every night? Thankfully we’ll get to see him for years to come.

Congratulations to Andrew McCutchen on this great honor.

Go Bucs

Cutch: Time for a breakout

Cutch Pirates

In 2012, the Pirates’ offense was carried by a one-man wrecking crew. Budding superstar Andrew McCutchen just kept on hitting in the first half, and saw his batting average reach as high as .374 by mid-July. The “team goes as Cutch goes” moniker was born during a 60-game stretch from May 9th to July 17th: he hit .403 with 21 HR and 57 RBI and the team boasted a .617 winning percentage.

In 2013, the Battlin’ Buccos are winning once again; through 79 games, they lead Major League Baseball with a .620 winning percentage. However, we haven’t quite seen the same Andrew McCutchen. He’s appeared in 76 contests this year, and here’s how his stats compare to last season:

2012 .360 .411 .612 16 54
2013 .293 .358 .466 9 41

It’s pretty remarkable how the Pirates have paced themselves despite McCutchen’s offensive decline. His .293 average and .824 OPS are still respectable, but nowhere near his MVP-level production from a year ago.

That being said, can we expect a breakout from Cutch anytime soon?

Friday night would be a nice place to start. He increased his batting average by 6 points and OPS by 20 points, going 3-for-5 with an RBI single, RBI double, and solo home run. Unrelated to offense, but he also made a spectacular sliding catch that’s worth watching:

Cutch sliding catch

McCutchen has now hit .333 (24-for-72) since June 8th, and it’d be nice to see him keep going. Here’s what he and the Pirates face until the All-Star break:

June 29 – vs. Brewers
June 30 – vs. Brewers

July 2 – vs. Phillies
July 3 – vs. Phillies
July 4 – vs. Phillies

July 5 – @ Cubs
July 6 – @ Cubs
July 7 – @ Cubs

July 8 – vs. Athletics
July 9 – vs. Athletics
July 10 – vs. Athletics

July 12 – vs. Mets
July 13 – vs. Mets
July 14 – vs. Mets

The A’s are the only opponent with a winning record and a really strong pitching staff of the bunch. Hopefully they can keep feasting on the Brewers and Cubs, and also beat the Phillies and Mets like they did in April and May, respectively.

You also have to wonder if any of the players in the Bucco lineup will cool off. Starling Marte has shown that he’s human, Jordy Mercer probably won’t sustain his small sample size, Pedro Alvarez will hit another cold streak eventually, etc. They’ve come this far without immense contributions from their stud center fielder. Now would be a nice time for Cutch to kick it into gear and carry the Pirates into the All-Star break and beyond.

BASEBALL IS BACK | Opening Day 2013

[quote_box author=”Joe DiMaggio” profession=”Baseball Legend”]”You always get a special kick on Opening Day, no matter how many you go through. You look forward to it like a birthday party when you’re a kid. You think something wonderful is going to happen.”[/quote_box]

One of the best days of the entire year is finally here…

Diehard Bucco fans have been counting down to this day since the final out of the 2012 regular season was recorded.

It was a long offseason – new coaches were hired, Andrew McCutchen won a bunch of awards, Russell Martin was brought in to be the new catcher, Jason Grilli was re-signed, Joel Hanrahan was dealt, the Francisco Liriano saga lasted for weeks, Clint Hurdle was extended, et al.

The roster is set and predictions have been made. It doesn’t matter if you think the Pirates will win 90 games or lose 90 games – all your questions will be answered soon enough.

Aside from the heartbreak of the last 20 years, there’s something special about the beginning of a new Bucco season. The past is the past, and none of it matters anymore. The Pirates and every other team in Major League Baseball all start in the same spot on Opening Day – 0 wins, 0 losses. The clean slate represents hope and optimism – maybe this is the year that the Bucs can finally break “the streak.”

Regardless of their win-loss totals, good times are on the way in the Steel City. The 2012 season showed fans how exciting Andrew McCutchen & Co. can be…

The “Zoltan” taking over Pittsburgh. A.J. Burnett telling Hanley Ramirez what to do. Cutch being Cutch. The Pittsburgh Kid producing five-hit games again and again. Waiting out a late night rain delay to see Pedro tie it up. El Toro winning it in the 19th. #FirstPlaceBucs trending worldwide after a Reds’ loss on Sunday Night Baseball. Relentlessly voting McCutchen onto the cover of a video game (#MLB13CUTCH!). The list goes on and on, and this city is being re-bonded with its baseball team.

What moments will make us proud to be Bucco fans in 2013? We can’t wait to find out.

It all starts today – April 1st, 2013. It’s Opening Day.

Let’s Go Bucs

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.

[quote_box author=”Andrew McCutchen” profession=”on winning the MLB 13 The Show Cover Vote”]”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.”[/quote_box]

Photo: Keith Allison/Creative Commons

ESPN: Do you need stars to make the playoffs?

David Schoenfield of ESPN wrote a solid piece on the relationship between star players and qualifying for the playoffs.

The main statistic Schoenfield uses in crafting his argument is wins above replacement (WAR). Here are some WAR basics, straight from the article:

“Baseball-Reference suggests a rough guideline that a 5-win player is an All-Star and an 8-win player is MVP-level. An average starter is about a 2-win player.”

Two teams that made the postseason in 2012 without much star power: the Baltimore Orioles and the Oakland Athletics. For the O’s, Adam Jones possessed the highest WAR at 3.4. Josh Reddick had the highest for the A’s at 4.5. Neither team was built with true superstars. Both teams were feel-good stories throughout the season, and any Bucco fan wishes the Pirates could have been in Baltimore’s or Oakland’s position.

That being said, how did the Bucs compare to those two ball clubs in terms of WAR? Here’s a look:

Pirates Orioles Athletics
Andrew McCutchen (7.0) Adam Jones (3.4) Josh Reddick (4.5)
Pedro Alvarez (2.6) Matt Wieters (3.2) Jarrod Parker (3.8)
Neil Walker (2.5) J.J. Hardy (3.0) Yoenis Cespedes (3.4)
A.J. Burnett (1.9) Miguel Gonzalez (2.9) Coco Crisp (2.7)
Michael McKenry (1.7) Jason Hammel (2.8) Bartolo Colon (2.6)

While Andrew McCutchen was way ahead of the pack, the Bucs had a huge drop-off after their star center fielder. The Orioles and A’s both had a consistent three-WAR players that led them to October. Here is Schoenfield’s conclusion:

[quote_box author=”” profession=””]Bottom line: Yes, stars are nice, but they can also be expensive. So while most of the offseason attention in the AL West went to Josh Hamilton leaving the Rangers and signing with the Angels, the most important moves of the winter may have been Billy Beane trading for Chris Young and Jed Lowrie and signing Hiroyuki Nakajima. Because sometimes three 2-win players can be more important than one 5-win player.[/quote_box]

This should give Pirates fans some hope. Although a playoff berth or .500 season are far from guaranteed, the Orioles and A’s are proof that anything can happen. Even though it’s difficult for the Bucs to acquire great talent and match up with huge payrolls, they can still compete with a few solid players in the mix. If McCutchen can produce another MVP-caliber season and a couple of players breakthrough with convincing campaigns, the Pirates can easily hang with the best in the league.

Photo: Keith Allison/Creative Commons