Pittsburgh Pirates Black History Month Tribute: Andrew McCutchen

PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 01: Andrew McCutchen #22 of the Pittsburgh Pirates hits a single in the sixth inning against the Cincinnati Reds during the National League Wild Card game at PNC Park on October 1, 2013 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 01: Andrew McCutchen #22 of the Pittsburgh Pirates hits a single in the sixth inning against the Cincinnati Reds during the National League Wild Card game at PNC Park on October 1, 2013 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images) /
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Pittsburgh baseball have a deep history in African American history. Contuniuing with our Black History Month tribute series, let’s go over one of the best outfielders ever in Pirates’ history.

The Pittsburgh Pirates have had a deep history in black history and with February being Black History Month, I felt that we should take a look at some of the Bucs’ best African American players throughout their history. Today, let’s look at one of the best Pittsburgh Pirates to ever wear the uniform, Andrew McCutchen.

Andrew Stefan McCutchen was born in Fort Meade, Florida. He was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates out of Fort Meade High School with the 11th overall selection during the 2005 draft and by 2009 he was one of baseball’s premier prospects. Cutch made his debut on June 4th, 2009 against the New York Mets where he collected two hits in four trips to the plate, drove in one run and swiped a bag.

McCutchen’s first few years in the bigs were pretty good. From 2009 to 2011, the center fielder put up a .276/.365/.458 line, smacked 51 home runs, swiped 78 bases while having a 126 wRC+ and .360 wOBA. He also was showing improvements defensively as by 2011, he had +2 DRS, 3.1 UZR/150 and 4.7 range runs above average in center. Cutch showed he had the valuable power/speed combo stealing at least 20 bases through each of his first three seasons while having a .186 isolated slugging percentage.

However, 2012 would be McCutchen’s big breakout season. Through 673 plate appearances Cutch put up a .327/.400/.553 line, slammed a career high 31 home runs, put up an outstanding .403 wOBA and 158 wRC+. It was also the fourth straight season in which he stole at least 20 bags. While he did regress defensively this year, he still registered a strong 7.3 fWAR which only trailed 2012’s AL Rookie of the Year and the first MVP-caliber season of many, Mike Trout at 10.1 among all outfielders.

Cutch would end up finishing 3nd in National League MVP voting, but would go on to claim the title the following season. Cutch repeated his fantastic numbers from the year prior with a .317/.404/.508 line, 21 home runs, 27 stolen bases, a .393 wOBA and 156 wRC+. He also saw his defense rebound having positives in DRS (+3), UZR (3.2) and range runs above average (2.2). Overall, he was worth 8.1 fWAR. He deservedly won the MVP this season. He and Trout were the only players in baseball to finish top 5 in both wRC+ and fWAR. Trout, Cutch and Shin-Soo Choo were also the only outfielders to have 20/20 seasons.

McCutchen would have his best offensive season in 2014 when he hit .314/.410/.542 with 25 long balls, a .412 wOBA, 168 wRC+ and .228 isolated slugging. His wOBA, wRC+ and ISO are all career highs for the outfielder. This was one of the best offensive seasons in Pirate history.

He may have won National League MVP had it not been for sub-par defense in center field. Cutch only had -11 DRS, -5.6 UZR/150 and 1.6 range runs above average out in center. Still, he finished 3rd in voting behind Clayton Kershaw’s historic 2014 season and Giancarlo Stanton’s 37 home run campaign.

Cutch continued to be a good batter going into 2015 putting up a .292/.401/.488 line, 23 home runs, a .380 wOBA and 144 wRC+. While this was his lowest OPS since 2011 and the first time his slugging percentage dipped below .500 since then as well, it was the 5th straight season he had at least 20 home runs and the 4th straight campaign he had an on base percentage of .400. McCutchen’s defense remained below average this year, but did rebound to some degree only having -7 DRS, -1.4 UZR and -1.4 range runs above average.

This four year run was absolutely insane. In the entire MLB, McCutchen ranked 7th in OPS (.926), 5th in wOBA (.397), 4th in wRC+ (157), 3rd in fWAR (28.8) and was one of just five total batters to post an OBP above .400, the other four being Joey Votto, Miguel Cabrera, Mike Trout and Paul Goldschmidt. He, and Trout, were the only batters to rank top 5 in fWAR, wRC+ and wOBA.

The 2016 season was the first down year of his career. Through his next 675 plate appearances, Cutch only put up a .256/.336/.430 line. He still hit 24 home runs and posted an above average 105 wRC+, but this was a far cry from his numbers the four years prior. Cutch was atrocious out in center. He had -26 DRS, -14.6 UZR and -14.5 range runs above average. These defensive numbers are some of the worst single season marks in Pirates history. This led to him having an fWAR of just 1.

Cutch managed to bounce back offensively in his last season with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He put up similar numbers to his first three seasons in the bigs having a .279/.363/.486 line, 28 home runs, a .360 wOBA and 122 wRC+.

However, in one of his last games as a Pirate, McCutchen drove in 8 runs in a 4-for-4 effort. Two of which left the yard and one was the first grand slam of his career. Defensively, Cutch opened up the year as the Pirates’ right fielder after his poor season in center the season prior. He looked pretty decent in his short time out in front of the Clemente Wall having +2 DRS and a 1.8 UZR/150 in 115.1 innings, but was moved back to center after Starling Marte was given an 80-game PED suspension. While he was no longer a good defensive center fielder, having just -13 DRS, -6.6 UZR/150 and -7 range runs above average, centerfield was his position and deservedly played his last game in a Pirate uniform in it.

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After the season, Cutch was traded to the San Francisco Giants for Bryan Reynolds and Kyle Crick. While he’s never reached the peak he once had, he’s done fairly well for himself. He’s hit .255/.361/.433 with a 117 wRC+ and 40 home runs in his last 1185 plate appearances with the Giants, New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies. However, an unfortunate UCL tear abruptly ended his 2019 season, which he got off to a hot start in and slowed him down for much of 2020.

Regardless of how he played in his later seasons, Andrew McCutchen is one of the best players to ever wear a Pittsburgh Pirate uniform. Among Pirates’ outfielders with at least 3000 plate appearances, Cutch ranks 6th in wRC+ (137), 9th in wOBA (.373) and 7th in fWAR (45.7).

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