Is Andrew McCutchen Back?
After a miserable start to the season, Andrew McCutchen has been red hot the past month. So the question begs, is he back?
As everyone knows, 2016 was a struggle for Pirate superstar Andrew McCutchen. Despite a strong two month finish to the season, 2016 was still the worst season of McCutchen’s Major League career.
The 2016 season saw Andrew McCutchen have a career worst on-base percentage (.336), slugging percentage (.430), wOBA (.329), wRC+ (106), strikeout rate (21.2 percent), walk rate (10.2 percent), and fWAR (0.7). None of this should come as a surprise, though, to anyone who watched McCutchen and the Pirates last season.
After his down 2016 season, McCutchen would start 2017 extremely slow.
On May 24th, McCutchen owned a .274 on-base percentage, .276 wOBA, and a wRC+ of 69. This led to me writing this article saying the Pirates were in a no win situation with McCutchen, as well as the team benching him for the final two games of a series in Atlanta. However, since this time, McCutchen has been one of the best hitters in the National League.
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In his past 79 plate appearances, which is still a small sample size, Andrew McCutchen owns a .468 on-base percentage, .480 wOBA, and a 203 wRC+. All three of these land in the top 10 in the National League during this stretch.
Furthermore, his power stroke has begun to return during this stretch. Since May 26th, McCutchen owns an ISO of .313. He has hit 5 home runs and has a total of 10 extra base hits. His 12.7 percent walk rate and 19.0 percent strikeout rate both indicate that he has been seeing the ball much better and that his swing is in a much better place.
Andrew McCutchen has been making much better contact the past month as well. He owns a 45.3 percent hard contact rate and has been cranking out line drives at a 26.4 percent rate during this stretch. His ground ball rate dropping to 32.1 percent is an encouraging sign as well.
His swing-and-miss rate has also dropped his past 79 plate appearances. Since May 26th, McCutchen owns a swing-and-miss rate of 8.1 percent. From the start of last season through May 24th of this season, this number was over 10 percent. Obviously, the less a player swings and misses the more contact they will make and the more base hits they will get.
An increase in hard contact, a decrease in swings and misses, and an increase in fly balls are all signs that a hitter’s hot streak can be sustainable. All of these are traits of Andrew McCutchen’s recent hot streak, and are all reasons for optimism that he is at least somewhat back to being the hitter he was for the first seven years of his Major League career.
Next: John Jaso: Pinch Hitting Extraordinaire
Is Andrew McCutchen back? Well, as a good friend once said, “time will tell.” Indeed, only time will tell if the baddest dude in the league is truly back or not. But for now, one thing that is certain is that he is on a hot streak that has all the signs of him being back.