Is A September to Remember Coming for Pittsburgh Pirates Andrew McCutchen?


Andrew McCutchen is a huge part of where the Pirates will finish in 2012

For the month of July, Pittsburgh Pirates star Andrew McCutchen hit at an incredible  .446 clip with an eye popping .739 slugging.  He came back from his All-Star Game and Home Run Derby appearance with bombs in three straight games against the Brewers.

At that time, nobody was talking about the Home Run Derby impacting his swing.  Nobody was talking about how tired he must be from not getting a break from baseball.

Since that outburst against Milwaukee, Cutch has hit only three more home runs.  He has six doubles since the All-Star Break.    The star centerfielder has come very close to several home runs, only to have the bad guys snare them at the track.  Last night was an example when McCutchen drilled a ball to dead centerfield at Petco Park for another long out.

In his last ten games, the lanky basher has hit at a very un-Cutch-like .220 clip.  He has walked eight times and struck out twelve times.  The panic is starting to settle in around Pittsburgh.  We wanted to go back and look at how McCutchen has performed the past couple of years in the second half to see what might stand out.

Everyone knows McCutchen struggled mightily during the Pirates second-half swoon last season, but his power numbers were rather consistent with his 2010 performance.

2012 has been a different story for the Bucs centerfielder.  McCutchen has been one of the leading MVP candidates, while leading the Bucs to places they haven’t been in a very long time.  Every major media outlet has written some type of feature on him.

The numbers are what the numbers are.  One thing we noticed last season was a two week stretch of games in late August where he hit four bombs.  Two came against the Astros and one each against the Cardinals and Reds.

It won’t take much production from McCutchen to help carry this Pirates team against so many of the MLB 2012 also-rans that remain  on their schedule.  A few key hits, a bomb sprinkled in occasionally, and the Pirates will remain in the thick of things.

The alarming thing to us has been the increasing amount of strike outs.   There have been several key situations recently where a McCutchen hit might have helped the team get back in the ballgame.  Cutch hasn’t delivered.  But it hardly stops with McCutchen: there are plenty of holes in the Bucs lineup.  Players do go through slumps –  even Andrew McCutchen – especially considering the team has played 20 games in 20 days in the dog days of August.  Thanks, “Bud”!

Various theories exist:  It could be that he is tired; some feel getting beaned by Chapman with 101 mile per hour heat has changed him–maybe caused him to move off the plate if you watch his at-bats closely, and even others say it was the Home Run Derby that changed his swing.

Whatever it is, we feel McCutchen will get it addressed.

But a key point to note is that Cutch has struck out 20 times so far this month.  Ten times in the past four games.  It’s alarming, but it can be fixed – it points directly at being worn down.  Maybe it shouldn’t be alarming  (if you choose to look at what happened last season), but c’mon – there are so many differences between 2011 Cutch and MVP 2012 Cutch.

However, history is what it is.  Many people are going to point to it.  Especially when last September, Cutch had a strikeout rate of something like 27%.  Numbers like those won’t do much for his MVP candidacy, or for the team he has carried for so much of the magical season.

But it says here that the slump won’t last for long.  McCutchen and his crew will be facing some of the worst pitching staffs in Major League Baseball down the stretch.  Games with the Houston Astros, Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee Brewers, and New York Mets look like a feast for the Bucs superstar.

He won’t need to repeat his tremendous July,  but with those games meaning very little to those teams, this September should be an amazing one for Cutch.