Will Andrew McCutchen ever get another pitch to hit?


Andrew McCutchen is having another typical torrid stretch at the plate.

In a manner of speaking.

With eight walks in his last three games, McCutchen has not seen many hittable pitches recently. McCutchen has always had an elite walk rate as his career 11.9% attests. Having already played in as many games as his injury-shortened 2014, McCutchen has four more walks year-over-year and will easily surpass his career high of 89 back in 2011 (only his second full year in the majors).

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McCutchen’s patience is impressive, but over the past few games he has taken that to another level. Looking at the data for McCutchen’s last three games over at Brooks Baseball, we can see that McCutchen is easily identifying pitches moving out of the zone. On pitches labelled as a cutter, 90% are taken for balls. Amazingly, McCutchen has not offered at a single pitch of this type. The patience isn’t exclusive to this particular pitch, as McCutchen also sits back on curveballs with a 36.36% ball rate.

Surely this is a recent phenomenon, as McCutchen saw an uptick in seeing these types of pitches as opposed to the rest of the season. In the season before September 19th when this stretch began, McCutchen saw an average of 1.42 cut fastballs per game, yet sees 3.3 instances in the past three contests.

Opposing pitchers seem to be trying to fool McCutchen with movement, and it’s not working.

Back to the title of this post, will McCutchen ever see another good pitch to hit? The short answer is yes. With Aramis Ramirez providing good protection behind him, this trend will likely course-correct, resulting in at least a few more fastballs finding McCutchen’s bat. The long answer is…maybe. Ramirez is 37 years old, and simply cannot be asked to be an everyday bat behind McCutchen. Clint Hurdle has done a great job in maximizing Ramirez’s contributions with regular rest. Asking more of him at this point in his career may overextend him. The Pirates’ middle third of their batting order is not as deep as they are at other spots in the order. Sure, Neil Walker and Francisco Cervelli can slide into that fourth spot, but neither can offer the consistent RBI threat that Ramirez can when his swing is as locked in as it has looked lately.

When viewed through that lens, opposing pitchers may just decide to keep McCutchen at bay and take their chances with an aging slugger.

In either scenario, Andrew McCutchen has had a tremendous impact, as perennial MVP candidates usually do.

It’s considerably amazing when you realize that impact comes with the bat on his shoulder.

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