Andrew McCutchen Carrying Pittsburgh Pirates’ Punchless Lineup

By Tom Froemming

Somebody forgot to tell Andrew McCutchen today’s professional athlete is pretty much expected to rest on his laurels after signing a big contract extension.

The Pittsburgh Pirates locked up their star center fielder this March, signing him to a 6-year, $51.5 million contract extension that has a team option for 2018. If the early returns are a sign of things to come, McCutchen will more than live up to that deal.

Now, if he could just get some help.

McCutchen ranks eighth in the National League with a .331 batting average, has a .929 OPS, has slugged eight home runs and stolen 10 bases. His RBI (25) and runs scored (28) totals don’t jump off the page, but that’s just because there’s no one else in the lineup who’s producing.

By the numbers alone, McCutchen deserves to be among the top candidates for the NL MVP, but when you look at how he’s carried his club, that’s what sets him apart.

Two seasons ago, the Seattle Mariners had the worst offensive performance by a team since the designated hitter was introduced. The M’s scored just 3.17 runs per game in 2010 and hit .236 as a team.

The Pirates have been even more pathetic than that Seattle team, as the Buccos are averaging just 2.94 runs per game and are flirting with the Mendoza line, posting a team batting average of .210.

The player who has hurt Pittsburgh the most in the batter’s box has been offseason signing Clint Barmes. The shortstop is hitting .170 with a .465 OPS in his first 141 at-bats with the Pirates. Barmes has struckout 39 times and walked just twice.

The fact that the Pirates sit at 25-25 is some kind of magic act that’s doomed to go awry if things don’t improve offensively. Pittsburgh’s pitching staff has been phenomenal, thanks in large part to James McDonald, but the ownership needs to step up and take a role as buyers this summer to give their team a fighting chance in the wide-open NL Central.

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