On Sunday, the Pittsburgh Pirates announced that they are moving Andrew McCutchen to right field for the 2017 season. This is a move that will benefit all parties involved.
For the last eight years there has been on constant for the Pittsburgh Pirates. That one constant has been Andrew McCutchen starting in center field everyday. However, this constant will be no more in 2017.
In 2017 Andrew McCutchen will no longer be the Pirates’ starting center fielder. Instead, he will be in right field. This move will shift Starling Marte to center field and Gregory Polanco to left field. This is a move that the Pirates announced yesterday.
This is a move that has been widely debated the past 24 hours. However, this debate was not new. The debate over moving Andrew McCutchen out of center field is one that has been going on for over a year.
Andrew McCutchen won a Gold Glove Award for his play in center field in 2012. But even in 2012 his defense was not Gold Glove worthy, and he won it mostly due to his name and offense. That said, since 2012 his defense has progressively gotten worse.
|Year||Defensive Runs Saved (DRS)|
*- Won National League Gold Glove Award
As you can see above, the trajectory of McCutchen’s defense in recent years has been troublesome. Especially considering he was never a great defender to begin with. However, it bottomed out in 2016 when his -28 DRS was the worst among all Major League outfielders.
Adding to the calls to remove Andrew McCutchen from center field was Starling Marte. Ever since he debuted in July of 2012 Marte has been one of the best defensive players in all of baseball, and he has been the Pirates’ best center fielder from the second he debuted in the Major Leagues.
Additionally, McCutchen does not have a very strong, or accurate, throwing arm. However, right field at PNC Park will help to hide this. This is due to how much the Clemente Wall shortens right field at PNC Park.
An outfield of Gregory Polanco, Starling Marte, and Andrew McCutchen from L-R is the Pirates’ best defensive outfield. By fielding their best defensive outfield, the team becomes a better defensive squad. And this makes the Pirates a better baseball team.
The benefits of McCutchen moving to right field are more than just defensive benefits. It will also benefit McCutchen in terms of health, and this should lead to better offensive production from the baddest dude in the league.
Ever since Spring Training of 2015 Andrew McCutchen has been battling knee issues. Playing right field, especially 81 times at PNC Park, instead of center field will help preserve McCutchen’s knees. It should also help to keep his legs fresh as the season progresses.
If the Pittsburgh Pirates are going to return to the postseason in 2017, Andrew McCutchen being the offensive player he was prior to 2016 is a necessity. I honestly believe he is more likely to reach this level of offensive production playing right field than he is playing in center field.
Furthermore, for the 2017 season McCutchen’s defense in right field will be much better than it would have been in center field. This will add to McCutchen’s overall value as a player, and in turn make the Pirates better.
In 2017 I expect Andrew McCutchen to be a much better offensive player than he was in 2016. Additionally, now that he is in right field, I expect him to be better defensively as well. This will lead to an increase in WAR for Cutch as he will be a much more valuable player. And this will make the 2017 Pittsburgh Pirates a better team.
Finally, the move to right field should help to prolong the career of Andrew McCutchen. Do not get me wrong, McCutchen’s career is nowhere near over. But, moving to a corner outfield position is something he was going to have to do sooner or later. And doing it sooner should help to preserve his knees, keep his legs fresh, and, in turn, prolong his career.
Moving Andrew McCutchen to right field is a move that will benefit both him and the Pittsburgh Pirates.