It was almost unbecoming, really.
After all, Andrew McCutchen had his own video game cover as the lone superstar on the Pittsburgh Pirates club, and expectations were sky high after a 6.8 fWAR 2012 season that put him in the running for the NL MVP award.
Yet, it was the same center fielder who entered play on the last day of the month with a .217/.284/.370 triple-slash that is anything but MVP-like, while his outfield compatriot Starling Marte was capturing what attention that a Pirates player can capture from the baseball world with a fantastic start.
The the four-hit game happened. Just a week after that on Tuesday, it happened again.
Going 4-for-4 with a run and an RBI against the Seattle Mariners, the Bucs’ No. 3 hitting provided the bulk of the offense — and that’s said quite literally, as the team only generated seven hits — keying Pirates to a 4-1 victory and moving the team to 18-14.
Considering that it was the team’s No. 1 through No. 4 hitters that provided all of the offense on this night, McCutchen’s contributions were even more valuable, as the team simply didn’t have too many chances to score.
The 26-year old is continuing to pull himself out of the rut he was in over the first month; as much as Marte is Mr. Everything for the team right now, the Pirates offense ultimately runs through McCutchen, and with three multi-hit games over the last week — in fact, all three of his games with more than two hits came in that span — the center fielder is certainly getting back on track with a 1.197 OPS week.
Usually, you’d say production like that isn’t very sustainable at all, but in this case, Cutch’s talent makes it possible.
This is a hitter who is still evolving and tweaking his game, and as a surging 81.8 percent contact rate (a three-year high) and a career-best 12.6 K rate indicates, he’s learning to be more patient and making the necessary adjustments while opposing pitchers have adjusted to him (career-low 55.1 percent first pitch strikes).
Said pitchers might want to consider making some more adjustments soon, because it looks as though McCutchen has caught up to whatever they’ve been doing.