Thursday, October 4, 2012

Cutch 2012

As every Pirates fan and virtually every baseball fan now knows, the Pirates collapsed at the end of the 2012 season for the second year in a row.  The collapse was spectacular, epic, and cruel.  As late as August, there was legitimate playoff hope.  A winning season was all but guaranteed.  Then it all fell apart.  The Pirates - once 16 games over .500 - finished the season at 79-83.

Lost in the shuffle somewhat was what it did to Andrew McCutchen.  It's hard to say McCutchen collapsed - his numbers in August weren't awful and his numbers in September were well above-average - but he did lose an MVP.  Had he done slightly better in August and had the Pirates made the playoff, "Cutch" would have almost assuredly won the MVP award.  Unfortunately, that did not happen.

Despite that, McCutchen had a phenomenal season by any standards.  In 2012, McCutchen went from budding superstar to one of the best players in the planet.  Such a great season deserves a breakdown.

Andrew McCutchen

Batting Average - .327
On-Base Percentage - .400
Slugging - .553
OPS - .953

Hits - 194
Doubles - 29
Triples - 6
Home Runs - 31
ISO - .226

BB% - 10.4%
K% - 19.6%

wOBA - .400
wRC+ - 156
fWAR - 7.5

By fWAR, McCutchen was tied for sixth with Chase Headley as the best player in baseball in 2012. He was 3rd in average, 4th in OBP, 7th  in slugging, and 5th in OPS.  McCutchen's 31 homeruns was 8 more than his career high he set in 2011 of 23 homeruns.  In addition, McCutchen bested his career high in batting average by .41 points with a .327 figure.

Looking closer, McCutchen actually saw his plate discipline numbers get slightly worse.  His BB% went down from 13.1% in 2011 to 10.4% in 2012.  At the same time, McCutchen struck out at 19.6% clip in 2012 compared to a 18.6% clip in 2011.  Despite the downward trend, it's nothing major as the changes were minimal and both numbers in 2012 were excellent.  That's especially true in the light of McCucthen's increased power.  Last year McCutchen put up a .198 ISO compared to a .226 ISO this year, a substantial improvement.

From his batted ball data

LD% - 21.9%
GB% - 43.8%
FB% - 34.3%

McCutchen got much better, hitting more line drives and groundball this year than ever in his career (groundballs are more likely to go for hits than flyballs), while cutting down on his flyballs.  The flyballs that he did hit went over the fence at a significant.  Overall, McCutchen's BABIP of .375 is still a bit high, but his line drive rate and speed lend themselves to a high BABIP.

Overall, it's hard to nitpick anything McCutchen did this season.  He hit for average, he walked, and he hit for power.  He hit the ball over the fence and he hit runners in, with 96 RBI's.  He was one of the best offensive players in baseball - his 156 wRC+ ranked 5th in baseball, ahead of 1B/DH slugger Edwin Encarnacion - and that's as a centerfielder, one of the hardest defensive positions to play in baseball.  Simply put, McCutchen had a fantastic season.

Moving forward, McCutchen's will turn 26 in approximately a week.  He's entering the prime of his career.  MVP-type seasons like this one are to be expected.  McCutchen is almost a perfect player.  He's not elite defensively, especially his arm, and he's also had issues stealing bases.  However, those are minor flaws.  Pittsburgh's face of the franchise is a legitimate superstar and while it'll be hard for McCutchen to improve on this year, Andrew McCutchen has the talent and work ethic to do just that. Stay tuned for 2013 and beyond.