Andrew McCutchen Needs Moved Down In The Pirate Lineup

Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

All season long Andrew McCutchen has hit second in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ lineup. However, this needs to change.

In Spring Training this year Pirate manager Clint Hurdle made a big change in his batting order. Hurdle decided to move former National League MVP Andrew McCutchen from the three hole in the batting order to the two hole. While I was a huge advocate of this in Spring Training, and I had wanted Hurdle to do this for some time now, it is time for McCutchen to be removed from the two hole.

I never thought I would be saying this, but Andrew McCutchen needs moved down in the Pirate lineup. McCutchen is having what is by far the worst season of his Major League career. On the season McCutchen is slugging .241/.321/.408/.729 with a .315 wOBA and a wRC+ of 100. All of these numbers are career lows for McCutchen.

Whatever the reason, Andrew McCutchen has been terrible this season. The reason he was moved to second in the batting order is because your best hitter should always bat second. However, Andrew McCutchen is no longer the Pittsburgh Pirates’ best hitter.

Honestly, the biggest issue is not Andrew McCutchen no longer being the Pittsburgh Pirates’ best hitter. For awhile now I believed Gregory Polanco would eventually surpass Andrew McCutchen for this role anyway. The problem is him only getting on base at a .321 clip. It simply makes no sense to have a hitter with such a low on-base percentage hit second in your lineup, and this is the main reason McCutchen needs moved out of the second spot. 

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The source of Andrew McCutchen’s struggles this year is both obvious and perplexing. McCutchen’s issue is that he is swinging at misses at too many pitches. This season McCutchen has a 24.8 strike out percentage, which is by far the worst of his career. The perplexing part though is why is he swinging and misses so much?

This season, Andrew McCutchen’s contact rate is a career worst 73.3 percent. This 73.3 percent is well below the 82 percent career contact rate he had entering the season. The most troubling part about this is how many pitches in the strike zone that Andrew McCutchen is swinging and missing at. McCutchen is swinging at a career high 70.8 percent of pitches in the strike zone, yet it has not yielding positive results. Andrew McCutchen is getting pitches to hit, he’s just simply not hitting them.

Andrew McCutchen’s walk rate is also way down this season, which is a big reason his on-base percentage is so low. Right now McCutchen has a 9.9 percent walk rate, this is the first time in his Major League career he has had a walk rate under 10.4 percent. The fact McCutchen is swinging at a career high 25.5 percent of pitches outside the strike zone is undoubtedly a factor here.

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So, where to move McCutchen to? I would bat Andrew McCutchen sixth, move Gregory Polanco up to the two hole, and hit Josh Harrison third in the batting order for now. While I do not like to bat Josh Harrison high in the batting order due to his 3.6 percent career walk rate, he is hitting .310 on the season and as a result has a .338 on-base percentage.

If Andrew McCutchen starts to improve at the plate, then I would move him back up in the batting order and put him in the three hole. Remember, your best hitter should bat second and for the Pittsburgh Pirates that has become Gregory Polanco. If McCutchen continues to struggle then when Francisco Cervelli returns from the disabled list I would put his .373 on-base percentage and 14.9 percent walk rate in the three hole.

So far in the 2016 season the Pittsburgh Pirates have had a very strong offense. Despite Andrew McCutchen struggling immensely, the Pirates still rank sixth in the Major Leagues in runs scored. However, the Pirates can no longer have a hitter with a .321 on-base percentage batting second. And it is time that Andrew McCutchen, at least temporarily, is removed from the two hole in the batting order.