Andrew McCutchen: From Worst Start of Career to MVP Front Runner


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The Pittsburgh Pirates are riding high, in large part thanks to Andrew McCutchen.  Everyone knows where Cutch is right now.  The Bucs All-Everything CF is in the driver’s seat for the National League MVP Award–but don’t forget where this season started for the Bucs center fielder.

The Rawlings Gold Glove winner worked out like a madman, like he always does.

The Florida native went on a public relations blitzkrieg and wrapped up numerous off-season appearances by making the cover of The Show.

During spring training, we thought he looked as fresh as we had ever seen him.

And before the season, with the Bucs playing a very difficult early schedule – including the opening series against the Los Angeles Dodgers – if someone had said after 24 games the Pittsburgh Pirates would be 14-10. …. we’re guessing you would have assumed a few things:

One of those would have been that Andrew McCutchen must have gotten off to a solid start to the young season.

Hardly.

The Bucs’ superstar started 2013 a bit hot, but cooled tremendously as May approached. McCutchen wasn’t even among the team’s top offensive contributors in a few categories.  Yeah, Cutch wasn’t even a statistical leader on his own club.

Cutch was seventh in slugging, 12th in average, 11th in OBP, 10th in OPS.

An outcry was heard when Cutch was removed from the game by Jeff Banister in a double switch. The Pirates Silver Slugger had gone 0-for-3, stranded four base runners and extended his slump. After a few more fly outs and another o-for day, Cutch was smack in the middle of a 1-for-his-last-24 stinkfest.

We remember when he went five-for-his-last-36, and was hitting .216.

Back in 2011, Cutch had a rough April as well. But there was one important element of his production that did improve early this season.  In April of 2011 he struck out 23 times, this year he had only 13.   In all of 2012, McCutchen had 132 strike outs;  he’s got just 95 this year, with 13 games remaining.

He walked 15 times in April of 2011, just eight this season. In April of 2011, he hit five bombs, Cutch had three this April.

It was so bad in April that the Bucs’ gold-glover had a career-high 0-for-17 streak; Still, he managed to reach base safely in 18 of the first 24 games, and hit safely in 15 of the first 24 games.

Despite being in such a horrendous skid, he still led the team in driving in runs with 16. How scary was that for the rest of the Bucs?

After winning NL Player of the month honors twice last season and finishing third in the MVP vote, it was frustrating to see the Bucs cover boy struggle early.

Unstoppable Pittsburgh Pirates

Unstoppable Pittsburgh Pirates

Oh, how times have changed– from looking like the weight of 20 years was on his shoulders, to the present where he hits balls so murderously — as he pursues not only an MVP trophy, a batting crown, but also the most important short-term goal.

The NL Central Division title.

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Cutch by month–click to embiggen.

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Tags: Pittsburgh Pirates