What Is Plaguing Andrew McCutchen?


Pirate center fielder Andrew McCutchen is off to a slow start in 2016, so what exactly is plaguing the Pirate superstar?

Fans of the Pittsburgh Pirates are used to watching Andrew McCutchen be one of the best hitters in all of baseball. Entering this season the superstar center fielder owned a lifetime .298/.388/.496/.884 slash line, a .382 wOBA, 144 wRC+, and a 40.3 WAR. Ever since debuting in June of 2009 McCutchen 1,182 hits and 40.7 WAR both rank second in the Majors behind Miguel Cabrera.

However, McCutchen is off to a very slow start having posted a .248/.352/.448/.800 slash line with a .346 wOBA and a wRC+ of 115. For most players this would not be a bad start at all, but for a hitter like Andrew McCutchen it is. So that raises the question, what is plaguing Andrew McCutchen?

Andrew McCutchen currently has a 12.4 percent walk rate. And while this is down from the 14.3 percent and 13.0 percent walk rates he has had the past two seasons, it is still higher than the 12.1 percent career walk rate he had entering the season. So, patience at the plate has not been an issue for McCutchen so far this season.

Through the first 32 games of the season Andrew McCutchen has an ISO of .200, which is higher than his career ISO of .198 entering the season. ISO measures how hard a player hits the ball and how often they record extra base hits, so through the first 32 games of the season McCutchen is still hitting the ball with authority.

Again, what is plaguing Andrew McCutchen?

The biggest problem with McCutchen so far this season has been twofold. One, his contact rate is a career low. And two, he is swinging at too many pitches outside of the strike zone.

Andrew McCutchen contact rate is currently a career low 71.1 percent. Entering this season McCutchen’s career contact rate was 79.8 percent, with his previous career low for a season being 75.9 percent last season.

So, Andrew McCutchen has been making less contact through the first 32 games of the 2016 season than in previous seasons. Obviously this is a big issue because the less contact a player makes, the less often they will put the ball in play, and the less base hits they will collect.

This contact rate issue leads us into Andrew McCutchen’s other issue this season, swinging at too many pitches outside of the strike zone. McCutchen has swung at 25.4 percent of the pitches that have been thrown to him outside of the strike zone this season. This is nearly a two percent increase over the 23.8 percent career swing rate on pitches outside of the strike zone he had entering the season.

Swinging at pitches outside of the strike zone lessens your chances of collecting a base hit, duh. If a pitch is outside the strike zone it will be much tougher not just for a hitter to make solid contact with the pitch, but also to make contact period.

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As a result of Andrew McCutchen’s contact rate being down and his O-zone swing rate being up, his strike out rate has also risen this season. McCutchen currently has a 22.8 percent strike out rate, which is not only a career high but also way up from the 17.1 percent career strike out rate he had entering the season.

Ultimately, what has been plaguing Andrew McCutchen most this season is that he is swinging and missing at too many pitches. An increased swing and miss rate leads to a lower contact rate, less base hits, and a higher strike out rate. All of these problems have plagued McCutchen this season, and now it is up to him to solve these problems.