A look at Andrew McCutchen and his career up to 1,000 hits
Andrew McCutchen got his 1,000th career hit Thursday night against the Chicago Cubs on an infield single to third baseman Kris Bryant (you can see the hit here). 1,000 is a nice number to get to, even though over 1,200 players have already gotten there in their careers. The beauty of Cutch’s 1,000 hits is that he got there by the time he was 28, and has a good shot to get past 2,000 and join even more elite company (although 3,000 may be a bit of a reach for him). McCutchen has been the saving grace for a franchise that endured 21 consecutive seasons and hasn’t had a true baseball superstar since Barry Bonds. Let’s take a look back at his illustrious his career so far.
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McCutchen was drafted 11th overall by the Pittsburgh Pirates back in 2005 out of Fort Meade High School. He began 2005 in low-A ball, and over the course of his minor league career batted .286/.362/.423 en route to a major league call-up in June of 2009. This call-up was preceded by the Pirates shipping off all-star center fielder Nate McClouth for a package of three minor leaguers: outfielder Gorkys Hernandez and pitchers Jeff Locke and Charlie Morton. Needless to say, even without counting McCutchen replacing McClouth in center field, the Pirates may have won that trade. In his major league debut, McCutchen batted in the leadoff position and went 2-4, singling in his first at-bat and had three runs scored, one RBI, one walk, no strikeouts, and one stolen base. Yeah, it was a good debut for the future National League MVP.
Top prospect McCuchen made the most of his 2009 season, batting .286 in 108 games, adding 12 homers, 54 RBIs, and 22 stolen bases. He had the most triples of his career in ’09 with nine and finished fourth in NL Rookie of the Year voting. In 2009, he hit his first career home run off of current Pirate Francisco Liriano, yet the Bucs still finished 62-99, narrowly missing out on a 100-loss season.
In 2010, the Pirates would achieve that dreaded 100-loss season, finishing 57-105. That didn’t stop McCutchen from proving why he was considered a top-50 prospect in all of baseball throughout his minor league career. Cutch batted .286 again in 2010 with 16 home runs and 56 RBIs in 154 games as the Pirates’ starting center fielder. He finished with the most steals he’s had so far in a season that year with 33.
After rock bottom in 2010, the Pirates began their ascent toward their current stature as a World Series contender in 2011 with McCutchen at the helm. He made the all-star team for the first time in his career that year, and hasn’t missed an all-star game since. His average slipped to .259, yet he replaced that with more home runs (23) and RBIs (89) and had the most walks of his career that season (89).
2012 was when McCutchen put the baseball world on notice. He had arguably his greatest offensive season that year, and the Pirates were once again in contention for a playoff spot late into the year. He set many career highs in 2012, including average (.327), at-bats (593), runs scored (107), hits (194), home runs (31), RBIs (96), slugging percentage (.553), OPS (.953), and total bases (328). He received back-to-back NL Player of the Month honors in June and July, and finished the year with his first Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards. He also finished third in NL MVP voting.
Cutch finally brought the trophy home the next season. The 2013 NL MVP, Cutch helped break the Pirates’ postseason and winning season drought by propelling the team to a 94-68 season and a Wild Card game against the Cincinnati Reds, one that will be remembered by Pirates’ fans for decades. 2013 was also the year that Cutch began getting hit with more pitches, as rivalries against other teams began to surface and reignite (i.e. with the Reds). His defense also was putting teams on notice, as his speed helped him get to balls that many others couldn’t.
Last season, Cutch had another fantastic year, finishing third in NL MVP voting and securing his third straight silver slugger and fourth straight all-star selection. He set a career high in OBP (.410), in part due to the Pirates placing a larger focus on players getting on base. He helped propel the Pirates to a second straight postseason berth, even if it was a shorter trip than the previous season. However, 2014 involved many infamous incidents of Cutch getting hit, including one that put him on the disabled list for the first time in his career.
This season, Cutch is battling a leg injury and is off to his worst April yet. Let’s hope he turns it around and has another MVP-caliber season. The 1,000 hit mark signifies that Andrew McCutchen is more than just an MLB regular, and more than just an exciting player. He is a once-in-a-generation talent that has transformed Pittsburgh back into a city where baseball is relevant. Hopefully he stays in a Bucco uniform for the rest of his career.
Let’s end on one of my favorite moments of McCutchen’s career, from last season:
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