Pittsburgh Pirates Gradeout – Andrew McCutchen
The offseason is unfortunately here and so we are simultaneously tasked with reflecting on the 2015 season and looking forward to next spring. As part of Rumbunter’s off-season coverage, we will be grading out virtually every member of the Pittsburgh Pirates who spent substantial time on the team’s 25-man roster over the past season. We will look at their seasons as a whole, show you their relevant stats, and assign a final grade to each player. Today’s entry: Andrew McCutchen
We have reached our final 2015 Pittsburgh Pirates Regular Season Gradeout, as we choose to finish with the face of the franchise, Andrew McCutchen. First, though, it’s important to note that there were a few players that we chose not to grade because we wouldn’t feel right giving them anything but an “I” for Incomplete, based on the lack of time each of them spent in the majors this past season. These players include Bobby LaFromboise, Casey Sadler, Rob Scahill, Elias Diaz, Tony Sanchez, Pedro Florimon, Keon Broxton, Jaff Decker, Andrew Lambo, Travis Snider, Radhames Liz, and Corey Hart. To be honest, if they were each given grades as opposed to incompletes, it’s likely that only Rob Scahill would receive above a “C.” We’ll likely see some of these players contribute in some capacity next season, but their roles were too minimal this past season to justify giving them a grade.
But the focus of this final gradeout is Andrew McCutchen, who put in another productive offensive season, and was arguably the best offensive center fielder in the National League. When looking at his stats at face value, there’s not much to complain about. But when digging a little deeper, we see how a poor start to the season and a poor finish directly impacted how the team started and finished, even though the middle of his season was fantastic, as it always is.
McCutchen got heat for starting off poorly in April, and deservedly so. He slashed .194/.302/.333 in April with just 14 hits in 72 at-bats. While he still had 13 RBIs, it seemed like he was battling through a lingering leg injury that the media took and ran with. McCutchen admitted that he was probably going to be battling that injury throughout the course of the season, which put a scare into the hearts and minds of many Pirates’ fans, myself included. It seemed like it would be an impossible task for McCutchen to repeat the success he had in past years if he had to battle an injury all season long.
His poor start was compounded by simultaneous poor starts from Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer as well, which directly impacted the the success of the team early on. The Pirates were 12-10 after the month of April, and were 18-22 after May 20th. But McCutchen soon put his struggles and his injury behind him and took off, as he held an OPS over .900 in May, June, July, and August. He won the NL Player of the Month award in August and two NL Player of the Week awards during the year. With the Nationals and the Giants fading in the NL playoff race and the Pirates and McCutchen heating up, McCutchen was putting himself squarely in the NL MVP discussion.
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But when the Pirates again got within two games of the Cardinals in the NL Central late in the season, they couldn’t close the gap. The Pirates faded out of the division race, and McCutchen faded with the team as well. He slashed just .237/.405/.340 in September and just .231/.231/.462 in 13 at-bats in October. At one point it seemed like a sure bet that McCutchen would hit 100 RBIs in a season for the first time in his career, but he had just one RBI after September 19th. He was, however, 2-4 in the Wild Card game against the Cubs, but that wasn’t enough to help the team into the NLDS.
McCutchen finished the year with a .292/.401/.488 line, 23 home runs, and 96 RBIs. He had his worst year by WAR since his sophomore season in 2010, and his overall WAR has declined each of the past two seasons. He still managed a fantastic season when evaluating it at face value, as he took home the Silver Slugger as the best offensive center fielder in the National League, and he still led the all Pirate regulars in RBIs, OBP, slugging, OPS, OWAR, and walks. He also set set a single-season career high in walks and tied a single-season career high in RBIs, but he failed to register a .300/.400/.500 season for the first time since 2011.
Overall, McCuchen put in another fantastic season. He’s still one of the premier offensive players in the National League, and we would probably have more to complain about if McCutchen was making big money. But he still produced positive value for the money he made last season. It is, however, important to note that his play has arguably declined each season, if only slightly, since 2013. He is getting older, but if he continues to slightly decline, a long-term contract extension might not be the best decision for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
You’ve heard our take. Now it’s your turn. Sound off in the comments below, OR let us know on twitter.
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