Do you know how good the first half of Andrew McCutchen’s season was for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2012? Take a look at his numbers through the first half of the season. A .362 batting average, .414 on-base percentage, .625 slugging percentage, 18 homers and 60 RBI. Read that line twice. That’s a good entire season for a lot of players. Double or even close to double those numbers and you have probably the best season for a center fielder in a long time. Unfortunately he wasn’t able to double them.
The second half of the year saw his batting average dip to .289 which is a 73 point drop. He still had 13 homers but only 36 RBI. What was the big difference? For that answer, we get a clue by looking at the walks column. He walked 28 times through the first half of the season. The second half saw that number balloon up to 42 bases on balls. That might normally be a good thing but not with the decline of every other offensive number, especially the RBI column.
What that tells me is that teams started to pitch around McCutchen. You can’t exactly blame them for doing that with the numbers he was putting up. Even with the pitchers avoiding him in the second half, he still wound up third in MVP voting for a team that declined sharply after August 1st. What are the chances that McCutchen being pitched around affected the decline of the Pirates? I think they are pretty good.
The answer to McCutchen’s decline and the Pirates’ decline are the same. He needs someone behind him that pitchers also don’t want to pitch to. The man behind him in the order needs to be someone that will make the opposing pitcher pay dearly for pitching around McCutchen because they are going to do it. Get someone substantial to back him up and just sit and watch the season McCutchen can put up.