In 2012, Andrew McCutchen had his first big breakout season, hitting for a .327/.400/.553 line and putting up a 6.8 WAR. The fear at the end of the year, after the Pirates collapsed in the second half, was that McCutchen wouldn’t be able to repeat those numbers in the future, making it impossible for the Pirates to contend in future years.
McCutchen didn’t repeat those numbers the following year. He improved on them. He posted an 8.2 WAR in 2013, thanks to a .317/.404/.508 line, and improved defense. He dropped back to a 6.8 WAR this year, with a .314/.410/.542 line.
At one point in time, the concern was that McCutchen would only put up MVP-level numbers once in his career. Now? McCutchen has emerged as one of the best players in the league. In fact, you could argue that he is the second best player in the game, and the best in the NL.
A look at the last three years shows that Mike Trout is dominating every other hitter in baseball, posting a combined 28.4 WAR. The next best player on that list is McCutchen, who combined for a 21.8 WAR, and is the only other hitter who topped a 20 WAR. Miguel Cabrera (19.8), Robinson Cano (19.0), and Buster Posey (18.2) rounded out the top five. Clayton Kershaw (19.2) is the only pitcher who would crack the top five, although he wouldn’t beat out McCutchen.
Furthermore, in that time period, McCutchen ranks second in baseball in average (.320), OBP (.405), seventh in slugging (.534), fifth in wOBA (.402), and third in wRC+ (160).
There’s nothing that you can really add to these numbers. You just look at the results in amazement. I think everyone knew McCutchen was good. That much is obvious. But I don’t know if anyone really knew he was the second best performer the last three years. The argument has been between Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera, probably because they’ve been competing against each other in the AL MVP races. If you go by WAR, Trout is easily number one, and you could make a strong argument that McCutchen is easily number two in baseball.
For Pirates fans, the perception is a big change from a few years ago. There was a time when McCutchen was seen as just a good player. Then he was a good player who had a career year. Now it’s safe to say he’s one of the best in the game, and the best player in the National League.
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