To be honest, Andrew McCutchen has had better seasons than the one he put up in 2015. This year saw his lowest OPS and WAR totals since his big breakout in 2012, along with a drop in his power.
Some of that was probably due to a knee issue early in the year, which coincided with a slow start in April. McCutchen has started slow in the past, but this was a bit different. He had a .636 OPS in April this year, which is down from his career .764 OPS during the month. Every other month in his career is over .860, with May-July seeing an OPS over .900. He once again exploded in May-August, then faded in September, with a .743 OPS.
McCutchen has been so good that he brings about unrealistic expectations. His season this year was not among his best, but even his worst season in the last four years amounts to one of the best seasons among all hitters in baseball. Out of 141 qualified position players, he ranked 12th in WAR, and led the Pirates. Any team would take that "worst performance", although it does open McCutchen up to some unwarranted criticism in Pittsburgh, especially when he doesn't come up big in every key situation.
There were some areas where McCutchen declined this year, and the most alarming decline was on the bases. His Base Running Runs Above Average was -1.1 this year, which was the first season where he posted negative value, and well down from his 6.2 BsR in 2013. Part of that could be due to a decline in his stolen bases. He stole 11 bases this year in just 16 attempts. Last year he only attempted 21 stolen bases, but managed to steal 18 bags. In his previous full seasons, his attempts were over 30, and his half season in 2009 saw 27 attempts.
I'd say the decline is due to McCutchen's place in the middle of the order, but that wouldn't be accurate. He was the number three hitter in 2013, and stole 27 bases in 37 attempts that year. It could just be that McCutchen is losing a bit of his plus-plus speed that he entered the league with.
Defensively, there are more concerns when it comes to his speed. His Range Runs Above Average was -4.3, which isn't too uncommon, since he's posted negative numbers in previous years. However, his numbers of plays outside of his zone (tracked by Baseball Info Solutions) was at 50 this year, and has gone on a steady decline the last few years, ranging from 107 in 2011 to 58 last year.
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Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.