Friday, November 15, 2013

McCutchen's all-around game won out

By Mark Simon
November 14, 2013

Andrew McCutchen's statistics don’t necessarily overwhelm you when you look at them singularly, but put them all together and the value becomes apparent. 

It was to those who voted on the National League MVP award, which McCutchen won on Thursday night. 

McCutchen became the first Pirates player to win the NL MVP since Barry Bonds in 1992, which also happened to be the last time the Pirates made the playoffs before this season. 

What makes McCutchen so good? 

He can hit 

McCutchen had a .317 batting average, .404 on-base percentage and .508 slugging percentage, each of which ranked in the top seven in the NL. His 64 extra-base hits ranked sixth in the National League. 

McCutchen hit well at home and on the road, and against both lefties and righties. He hit well at the beginning of games (.324 batting average with seven first-inning home runs) and at the end (a .302 batting average in the seventh inning or later). He had a number of big hits, posting a .317/.418/.508 slashline in what Baseball-Reference deemed as high-leverage situations (those that impacted winning the most). 

He was especially good against left-handed pitching, mauling southpaws for a .388 batting average and 17 extra-base hits in 103 at-bats. 

But what was most notable for McCutchen was that there was no easy way to get him out. 

He crushed fastballs, cutters and sinkers, ranking in the top 10 in baseball in batting and slugging against those pitches, his numbers comparable to the likes of Joe MauerMike Troutand Miguel Cabrera

He also performed considerably better than the average major-league hitter against breaking pitches, and was slightly above average at hitting changeups. 

McCutchen didn’t just hit the ball, he hit the ball hard. Inside Edge, which does video review of every at-bat of every game for major-league teams and media, rates every batted ball as hard, medium or soft. 

McCutchen’s at-bats resulted in a hard-hit ball 26 percent of the time. That rated highest in the National League and fourth-best in the majors. 

He can run 

McCutchen had 27 stolen bases, good for sixth-most in the National League, and that included six steals of third without getting caught. He’s stolen at least 20 bases in each of his five major-league seasons. 

McCutchen also was adept at taking the extra base. He scored from first on a double eight times in 12 chances and scored from second on a single 20 times in 24 chances (he held at third on the other four chances in each situation). Both of his success rates rated above the major-league average. 

He can field 

A couple of years ago, the Pirates made an adjustment to how McCutchen plays defense, positioning him deeper. The payoff came in 2013 when McCutchen was credited with a career-best seven Defensive Runs Saved, the fourth-highest total among National League centerfielders. 

McCutchen fared well not just at getting to batted balls but at deterring baserunners from advancement. McCutchen had the third-highest rating in the component of Runs Saved that rates throwing arm value (which matched where he ranked in outfield assists). 

Elias Sports Bureau Did you know? 

McCutchen won the award despite not ranking in the top five in any of the Triple Crown categories. Over the last 45 seasons, only five non-pitchers have won an MVP despite not finishing in the top five in any of those stats. The other four are Kirk Gibson (1988 Dodgers),Barry Larkin (1995 Reds), Ivan Rodriguez (1999 Rangers) and Jimmy Rollins (2007 Phillies).

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