Pittsburgh Pirates fans, take time to really think about what you are given the opportunity to watch on a nightly basis when you are watching your Bucs. You know that guy with the dreadlocks, who is frequently seen patrolling centerfield? His name is Andrew McCutchen. He is good at baseball. Take some time during the next Pirates game that you watch to realize that you are watching greatness.
The race for the National League MVP award is becoming less and less of a race as the games go by and the season gets shorter. A race that once consisted of names like Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers, Yadier Molina of the St. Louis Cardinals, Paul Goldschmidt of the Arizona Diamondbacks, McCutchen and even Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers is now down to two names in my opinion: Molina and McCutchen.
Braun isn’t in the race anymore for an obvious reason, he was busted for PEDs. Goldschmidt’s Diamondbacks have fallen out of the race for the second Wild Card spot. I don’t believe that team success should have a ton of weight in MLB awards, but let’s not ignore that the voters do consider it important. For me, starting pitchers don’t deserve the MVP award; they have their own award, the Cy Young award. I don’t care if a pitcher goes 35-0 with a 1.50 ERA, he can have his Cy Young award, but the MVP is going to an everyday player. Now you can cross Kershaw off the list too, because he is a pitcher.
That leaves Molina and McCutchen. Molina is a great catcher; he is by far the best player on the Cardinals team. He calls a great game behind the plate, shuts down the opponents’ running game, and he is a great hitter now too. A few years ago, Molina couldn’t hit very well; it’s hard to believe that these days. In 2013, he is hitting for a .318/.358/.479 slash line with a 134 wRC+ and a 4.9 fWAR. Just three years ago, in 2010, Molina had a .262/.329/.342 line with a 84 wRC+. The improvements he has made are incredible.
McCutchen has brought baseball back to Pittsburgh. After 20 losing seasons, the Pirates have finally clinched a winning season, thanks in large part to McCutchen. This season, McCutchen has a .326/.405/.519 slash line with a 158 wRC+ and a 7.5 fWAR. To go along with his 19 home runs, he also has 27 stolen bases.
Like I said, in normal circumstances I don’t take team success very seriously when considering who I would give awards to. However, 20 years of losing is a long time, and this is no normal circumstance. McCutchen deserves the MVP award, not only because the Pirates are good, but because he is the best player in the NL.