Around the time of the All-Star break, Andrew McCutchen was the front-runner for the National League MVP. Now, he’s not even in the discussion.
McCutchen’s fall from candidacy is not totally his fault, and even the word fault feels misused in this scenario. The Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder finished the season hitting .327/.400/.553 with 31 home runs and a National League-leading 194 hits. Only in the context of his remarkable first half does that seem like a disappointment.
At the arbitrary stopping point that is the mid-summer classic, McCutchen was hitting a league-leading .362 and slugging an astonishing .625, a total that is not only remarkable but is also a poor representation of his abilities. After all, McCutchen is one of the best all-around players in the game, but will never be classified as a true power hitter.
A drop-off in production was inevitable, but because it coincided with the collapse of the team’s playoff hopes, McCutchen is cast in the shadow of having had a poor second half. But McCutchen’s second half numbers are by no means on par with the implausibly bad production of his teammates.
After the All-Star break, McCutchen hit .289/.385/.475, which is in line with, and actually slightly above, his career-norms before this season. Andrew McCutchen was still very good in the second half, he just wasn’t obscenely good like he was in the first-half.
If the Pirates had remained in contention, there is little doubt that there would be a strong debate about the National League MVP between McCutchen, Buster Posey and Ryan Braun, much like there is in the American League between Mike Trout and Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera.
And unlike in the American League, where the debate is hot despite a massive gap in Wins Above Replacement (WAR), the race in the National League is essentially being handed to Posey, despite the fact that he, McCutchen and Braun are all within .4 WAR of one another.
Which just goes to show the human element involved in voting, and just how quickly a second-half cliff dive in the standings can end an MVP run.