To say that Andrew McCutchen is doing anything quietly is probably a bit of a misnomer.
After all, this was a breakout star who was a strong NL MVP candidate in 2012, whose graced the cover of MLB the Show, and who is once again an All-Star for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2013. If anything, Cutch is still the most recognizable face for the upstart Bucs as they look towards not only a winning season for the first time in seemingly forever, but also a trip back into the postseason.
So where’s the buzz about the fact that this might be the most complete version of McCutchen baseball has seen yet?
Maybe his disappointing .247/.308/.423 month of April had something to do with it. Maybe the emergence of Starling Marte took some of the attention away, and maybe it’s that the team has seen so much unlikely heroes (Jeff Locke, Mark Melancon) that fans are weary of talk about the same player over and over again, but Cutch has definitely taken a bit of a backseat from the spotlight when it comes to the Bucs this season.
Make no mistake, though — this Pittsburgh team beings and ends with the center fielder.
At 4.2 fWAR, he’s easily the most valuable player on the 2013 Pirates, and is tied for fifth in the NL in that category as expected. Since that .731 OPS month to start the season, the All-Star has been on fire, and will go into the Midsummer Classic on a .372/.481/.515 tear after having hit in all but two of the 12 games he’s played.
More impressively than him tearing the cover off the ball, though, is the fact that he’s already drawn nine walks over just 52 PA on the month, giving him a fantastic season-high 17.3 percent walk rate and a season low 11.5 strikeout rate.
The only downside might be that he has to take these numbers into the break and will have his work cut out for him in a followup.
Some would say that McCutchen has taken a step back because of his power numbers being lacking this season, but even at 10 home runs headed into the break, he’s still on pace for 46 doubles, 18 homers, and looks poised to put together his second straight 100-plus run season.
What he has added, however, is a much improved speed dimension to his game. It was as he’d promised prior to the season, and at 20 steals already, the 26-year-old is on pace to set a single-season career-high at 35, making it a very legitimate possibility that this could be a 20-40 player this season.
Oh, and did I mention that his defense has been better than ever at 6.7 fielding runs above average, with nine defensive runs saved in center already?
McCutchen earned his share of MVP considerations last year when he topped 31 homers and 20 steals, but he wasn’t a complete defender who could truly excel at all parts of the game. As long as his bat can stay hot, not even a few less long balls will hold him back from being in the mix again as one of the most dynamic, do-everything players in the league on pace for his best season yet.