Why you shouldn't overreact to Andrew McCutchen's slow start

Andrew McCutchen hasn't hit the ground running to start 2024, but before you declare he's washed, there are reasons why you should be a little patient with the former MVP.
Pittsburgh Pirates v Washington Nationals
Pittsburgh Pirates v Washington Nationals / Jess Rapfogel/GettyImages

Pittsburgh Pirates’ veteran designated hitter Andrew McCutchen hasn’t gotten off to the greatest start to 2024. He only has three hits in 25 plate appearances. He has also struck out 11 times, but to his credit, has also drawn four walks. As he enters his age-37 season and coming off a major injury that cut his 2023 short, I’ve already seen some people on social media call Cutch washed, but you don’t overreact to this slow start to the 2024 season.

The first and most obvious reason is that it’s barely been a week into the season. Cutch isn’t the only good player getting off to a sluggish start. Francisco Lindor is 1-26 with four walks in 33 plate appearances. Baltimore Orioles’ all-star outfielder Austin Hays has just two hits and seven strikeouts. Bo Bichette, Brandon Nimmo, and Jorge Polanco all currently have an OPS below .400. You should definitely give it a little more than the first week of April to make your final verdict on McCutchen’s season.

The second reason many have pointed out already is that McCutchen is a notoriously slow starter. McCutchen is just a .241/.340/.405 batter in April. Sure, he has a solid 12.3% walk rate, but his OPS in April is nearly one hundred points lower than his career OPS. He only has 485 total bases in the month of April throughout his career, the only month he has fewer than 550 TBs.

McCutchen has only ever once had a month of April where he had an OPS over .850. That was in 2014. Even in 2013, when he won National League MVP, he was barely a league-average batter during the first month of the season. Through his first 107 plate appearances of that year, he hit .247/.308/.423 with a 103 wRC+. Here are a couple of other batters who had a wRC+ better than McCutchen at the end of April 2013: Yuniesky Betancourt, A.J. Ellis, J.P. Arencibia, Yonder Alonso, and Chris Denorfia. They all were at least 12 percentage points better in terms of wRC+ than McCutchen in April of 2013.

Of course, that was 11 years ago now for McCutchen and the Pirates.

Something more recent to note is that Cutch’s Spring Training was cut short. He only appeared in eight Spring Training contests as he opened the pre-season injured. He had less time to warm up and get ready for the 2024 regular season than many of his other teammates. It might take him an extra week or two before getting fully ready.

I am not saying that McCutchen is going to have another MVP-caliber season, but it would be unwise to jump to conclusions based on his April numbers. Let’s give Cutch a little more of a leash than the first week of April. By the end of May last season, he was batting .273/.369/.453 with a 122 wRC+.