Oct 2, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen (22) makes a sliding attempt on a ball hit for an RBI double by Cincinnati Reds right fielderJay Bruce
(not pictured) during the third inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Center Field – Andrew McCutchen vs. Dexter Fowler
McCutchen was one of the premier offensive players in the game yet again this season. He batted .292/.401/.488 with 96 RBIs, and was a huge run producer for this team up until the last couple weeks of the year. He’s never been a fantastic defensive player, but he’s always been able to use his speed to get to many balls that other players might not be able to. He doesn’t have a great arm and can occasionally misplay a ball in the field, but his defensive mistakes can often be covered by the range of Marte in left and Polanco in right. We also tend to forgive his defensive lapses because of his offensive prowess at the plate. He amassed 4.8 wins above replacement this season, a much lower total than in previous years, but still significant. He’s the gear that keys this offense, and it will be difficult for the Pirates to beat Arrieta and the Cubs if McCutchen doesn’t play well. He won’t need to carry this team through the postseason like he might have in years past if the Pirates manage to advance past Wednesday night, but in one game, he can be a huge key to beating Arrieta. It will also be interesting to see if McCutchen attempts to steal any bases in the game, as runs will be at a premium. He only had 11 stolen bases this season, as his speed hasn’t been needed on the base-paths as much as it has in years past, but the team may need him to take off on Wednesday.
Fowler had another good major league season as he continued his role as the leadoff man that he held for so long in Colorado and Houston. Fowler had a .250/.346/.411 line this season and was worth 2.2 wins above replacement, right in line with his career averages. Fowler’s not typically a power hitter, but he set a career high this season with 17 home runs. That power from the leadoff spot is something to keep an eye on with the way Gerrit Cole pitches to him. But Fowler also set a career high in strikeouts, so maybe he’s changed the way he approaches at-bats this season. Fowler also adds speed on the base-paths, as seen in his 20 steals this year. Overall, Fowler played the most games of his career this year, and will try to get on base out of the leadoff spot as often as possible. Pirates’ pitchers, including Cole, aren’t great at holding runners on, so Cole will have to keep speedy guys like Fowler off the bases as often as possible.
It’s hard to compare these two players because they have different roles on the team. Fowler is the leadoff man, while McCutchen is the star player for Pittsburgh. But if we are comparing these two players for this exercise, there’s a clear winner.
Verdict: Andrew McCutchen
Next: Marte v. Schwarber