Andrew McCutchen did not receive an All-Star bid on Sunday, but he did receive the NL Player of the Month award on Monday following his sensational June that saw him hit .411 to go with six home runs and 23 RBI. He also tallied a .509 OBP, a .689 slugging percentage and a 1.198 OPS.
McCutchen's torrid June elevated his season batting average to .282 to go with 14 home runs and a team high 47 RBI. The five time All-Star is coming off a season that saw him hit a career-low .256. This is McCutchen's fifth Player of the Month award, the most in franchise history.
“Last year, pitchers didn't have to adjust their approach,” McCutchen told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review late last month. “They had a game plan for me because of what the stats said. They'd go out and do it and say, ‘OK, cool. I can stay there.' It was about me adjusting to them.
“Now, it's about them adjusting to me. That's the biggest difference, I think. I'm sticking with my approach, and they have to figure out the next move. It's a game of chess. All that stuff is coming up now because I'm in a better spot.”
McCutchen said that he's seeing the same amount of fastballs that he saw in '16 with a little more curveballs and changeups.
“He's gone up looking for certain pitches at times, gotten them, and drilled them,” Pirates' manager Clint Hurdle said of McCutchen. “Before, it might have been a foul ball. The path to the ball is just so crisp right now. There haven't been nearly as many swings and misses or flat-out mishits as before.”
Despite his struggles last season and earlier this season, McCutchen said that he still feels like he has the respect of opposing pitchers.
“I honestly still feel like I put the fear in guys, regardless of whether I'm hitting .200 or .300,” McCutchen said. “There's still a sense of, ‘I know who that guy is (at the plate).' It's not like they think they can challenge me now or throw a fastball by me. It's not like they're more comfortable.”
After making his MLB debut in 2009, McCutchen became a regular starter in 2010, earning his first All-Star selection the following season while helping the Pirates begin their ascension from NL Central cellar to a perennial playoff team from 2013-15. Now, the 30-year-old former NL Player of the Year is trying looking to end the first half of the season on a high note while keeping the Pirates in striking distance of the division-leading Brewers.
“I feel like I’m back to my old self,”he said. “I’ve just really tried to simplify things, not to think too much when I get in the (batter’s box). I’ve always felt I’m most successful as a hitter when I have a clear mind and basically just concentrate on seeing the ball and hitting the ball. I know that sounds like an oversimplification but it works for me.