Morning Report: Andrew McCutchen Vs Barry Bonds

I was going to wait a few days on this article idea, but two things happened that made me move it up to this morning. With Andrew McCutchen passing Barry Bonds on the Pirates all-time total bases list last night, and Bonds celebrating his 51st birthday today, now would be a good time to compare the two players during their respective careers in Pittsburgh. The reason I planned on waiting, is that McCutchen is less than 40 plate appearances away from what Bonds had in Pittsburgh, but it’s close enough now to get a good comparison. You can read a bio here, for Bonds’ playing days in Pittsburgh.

From 1986 until 1992, Barry Bonds played 1010 games for the Pirates and had 4255 plate appearances. With 176 homers and 251 stolen bases, he is the only member of the 150/150 club in team history. Andrew McCutchen hit his 141st homer on Thursday night and he has 148 career steals, meaning he will someday soon join Bonds in that exclusive club. There is no guarantee he will hit nine homers over the rest of the season, but he will eventually get there.

McCutchen has now played 972 games and he has 4217 plate appearances, so the two players are very close. As mentioned above, McCutchen passed Bonds in total bases on Thursday. They were tied for 20th place on the team’s all-time list after a McCutchen single early in the game, then he took the lead on the homer, giving him 1808 total bases.

I will note that before I get too far into the comparison, Baseball-Reference has the WAR for Barry Bonds at 50.1 during his time with the Pirates and McCutchen is at 36.3, so for those that consider the WAR stat to be the most important, there is a huge advantage for Bonds. Bonds was also obviously more of a home run hitter and ran a lot more often, plus his defense gets higher marks.

On that home run from McCutchen, he also scored his 600th career run. He was tied with Andy Van Slyke for 27th place to start the day, while Bonds scored 672 runs for the Pirates. That ranks him 20th in team history.

McCutchen has exactly 100 more hits than Bonds, 1084 to 984, but that is somewhat offset by Bonds having 117 more walks. As for times on base, which counts hits, walks and HBP, McCutchen has been on base 1626 times, which places him 19th all-time for the Pirates, one spot and 11 times on base ahead of Bonds.

With them being so close in times on base and plate appearances, it should come as no surprise that they are close in on base percentage. McCutchen is 13th all-time for the Pirates with a .386 mark, while Bonds is 14th, six points behind.

The two players are back-to-back in doubles, with McCutchen again in the lead, ranking 18th with 225 and Bonds 19th with 220. The next one McCutchen hits will tie him with Dick Groat.

We go to slugging and I’m sensing a pattern here. Bonds is eighth in team history at .503 and McCutchen is ninth, six points behind him, which is their difference in OBP too. Going into Thursday, McCutchen had an .882 OPS, but that went up one point with the big game and that ties him for tenth all-time with Bonds.

On the RBI list, Bonds sits 21st all-time with 556 and McCutchen passed Richie Hebner for 23rd with 521, so they are a little off there, but it should get closer over those next 38 plate appearances he needs to tie Bonds.

When you look at some SABR stats, such as runs created, there they are back-to-back with Bonds having a slight edge over McCutchen. By the time McCutchen has the same amount of plate appearances as Bonds, he could pass him. Adjusted batting runs has Bonds ninth in team history and McCutchen tenth. Adjusted batting wins, Bonds eighth, McCutchen ninth.

I think you get the idea by now, they are basically close. I realize the irony of me typing it, but I saw McCutchen one sacrifice fly ahead of Bonds and said that’s far enough, the picture is pretty clear. They were slightly different players during their time in Pittsburgh and most fans hope McCutchen is around long enough that this article looks very outdated at some point and instead, the comparisons are with some of the all-time greats in team history that stuck around longer.

Bonds drew more walks, stole more bases, hit for more power and that led to more runs. McCutchen hit for a higher average, to the point they have the same OPS. Bonds also helped lead the Pirates to three straight playoffs during his time and McCutchen….well, the odds look good at this point.

Pirates Game Graph

Source: FanGraphs

Playoff Push

The Pirates trail by six games in the division to the Cardinals. They have a 3.5 game lead for the top wild card spot.

Indianapolis is 5-5 in their last ten games. They have a three game lead in their division.

Altoona is 6-4 in their last ten games and they are now tied for first place with Bowie.

Bradenton is 8-2 in their last ten games. They trail Palm Beach by one game in the standings.

West Virginia is 7-3 in their last ten games and they have a three game lead in the division.

Today’s Schedule

Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pirates defeated the Nationals by a 7-3 score on Thursday. In game two of the four-game series tonight, the Pirates will have Jeff Locke going up against Max Scherzer, who just missed a perfect game last time he faced Pittsburgh. Locke allowed three runs over 7.1 innings against the Brewers in his last start. He did not face Washington last time the two teams met.

In the minors, Stephen Tarpley gets the start for West Virginia and he has allowed two earned runs or less in ten of his 11 starts. In his last outing, he had a season-high eight strikeouts. Radhames Liz goes for Indianapolis tonight. He has started five times and pitches three times in relief. On July 11th, he allowed four earned runs over five innings. In his other seven appearances, he has given up one earned run in 26 innings. Last time out, Liz threw six shutout frames. You can view last night’s prospect watch here.

MLB: Pittsburgh (55-40) vs Nationals (51-43) 7:05 PM
Probable starter: Jeff Locke (4.01 ERA, 38:78 BB/SO, 103.1 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (57-42) vs Louisville (48-52) 7:15 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Radhames Liz (1.44 ERA, 7:31 BB/SO, 36.1 IP)

AA: Altoona (54-45) @ Akron (50-49) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Zack Dodson (4.02 ERA, 21:51 BB/SO, 107.1 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (50-48, 18-10 second half) vs Dunedin (43-55) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Felipe Gonzalez (3.34 ERA, 18:52 BB/SO, 67.1 IP)

Low-A: West Virginia (56-40, 19-8 second half) @ Lakewood (49-46) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Stephen Tarpley (2.29 ERA, 17:54 BB/SO, 59.0 IP)

Short-Season A: Morgantown (17-16) vs Staten Island (19-13) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable Starter:  TBD

Rookie: Bristol (12-15) @ Pulaski (17-13) 7:00 PM (season preview)
Probable Starter:  TBD

GCL: Pirates (14-11) vs Blue Jays (17-10) 12:00 PM (season preview)

DSL: Pirates (18-28) vs Tigers (22-24) 10:30 AM (season preview)


Here is an RBI triple from Keon Broxton, who has had a tough time with the jump to AAA, though he has picked it up recently. Broxton is hitting .316 in his last ten games. Through 46 games with Indianapolis, he is hitting .219/.315/.348 and he’s 13-for-14 in stolen bases.

Recent Transactions

7/23: Pirates traded Yhonathan Barrios to Milwaukee Brewers for Aramis Ramirez and cash.

7/23: Steve Lombardozzi designated for assignment.

7/23: John Holdzkom assigned to Morgantown on rehab.

7/23: Hunter Morris activated from Indianapolis disabled list.

7/23: Wes Freeman released. Andy Otamendi assigned to Bradenton.

7/23: Mervin Del Rosario assigned to GCL Pirates.

7/22: Pirates purchase contract of Pedro Florimon. Wilfredo Boscan optioned to Indianapolis. Jayson Aquino designated for assignment.

7/22: Barrett Barnes promoted to Altoona. Andy Vasquez promoted to Indianapolis.

7/22:  Gorkys Hernandez assigned to Indianapolis on rehab.

7/21: Jonathan Schwind and Andrew Lambo assigned to GCL Pirates on rehab.

7/21: Harold Ramirez activated from temporary inactive list. Robert Stock placed on disabled list.

7/20: Jordy Mercer placed on disabled list. Pirates recall Brent Morel. Corey Hart transferred to 60-day DL.

7/20: Tito Polo activated from temporary inactive list. Jeff Roy promoted to Bradenton.

7/20: Kelson Brown activated from Indianapolis disabled list.

7/19: Junior Lopez assigned to Bradenton. Oderman Rocha assigned to GCL Pirates.

7/19: Pirates place Gorkys Hernandez on DL. Wilfredo Boscan recalled.

7/19: Jose Tabata activated from temporary inactive list.

7/17: Pirates sign Jake Thompson. Assigned to Indianapolis.

7/17: Pirates recall Jaff Decker.

7/17: Oderman Rocha assigned to Bradenton. Junior Lopez assigned to GCL Pirates.

7/16: Hunter Morris placed on Indianapolis disabled list. Jose Tabata placed on temporary inactive list.

7/15:  Pirates sign Ryan Nagle. Assigned to Morgantown.

7/15: Pirates sign Brandon Waddell and James Marvel. Waddell assigned to Morgantown.

7/15: Luis Paula sent to Morgantown.

7/13: Wilfredo Boscan sent to Indianapolis.

7/13: Seth McGarry assigned to Morgantown.

7/13: Omar Basulto assigned to GCL. Mike Wallace transferred from GCL to Bristol.

7/12: Wilfredo Boscan recalled. Steve Lombardozzi optioned to Indianapolis.

7/10: Pirates sign Ike Schlabach and assign him to GCL.

7/10: Pirates sign Tate Scioneaux and assign him to Morgantown.

7/10: Jesus Paredes promoted to Morgantown. Oderman Rocha sent to GCL.


This Date in Pirates History

Four former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus a game of note from the 1901 season. Besides Barry Bonds, who has a bio linked above, there have been three other Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date.

Joe Oliver caught for the 1999 Pirates. He was mentioned here yesterday, when the Pirates traded away Jose Guillen as part of a four-player deal to acquire Oliver from the Devil Rays. The trade was made necessary by the season-ending injury to Jason Kendall. In 45 games for the Pirates, Oliver hit .201 and drove in 13 runs.

Preston Ward was a utility player for the Pirates from 1953 until 1956. He played first base, third base and right field while in Pittsburgh, hitting .240 in 305 games. Ward came to the Pirates from the Cubs in the ten-player deal that sent Ralph Kiner to Chicago, which is one of the biggest deals in team history.

Joe Schultz Sr, infielder for the 1916 Pirates. He hit .260 in 77 games for the Pirates and saw playing time at five different positions. Schultz is one of the rare father-son combos in team history, as his son played for Pittsburgh from 1939 until 1941. You can make his family connection with the Pirates even more rare, as his cousin was outfielder Hans Lobert, who was the member of the 1903 NL champs. Schultz Sr also had another cousin named Frank Lobert, who played in the majors and lived in Pittsburgh, but never played for his hometown team.

Finally, we have something from the 1901 season that you rarely see. The Pirates that year won their first NL pennant and on July 24th, they beat the Reds by an 11-2 score at home. What was interesting about that game was the fact the Pirates scored all eight innings they came to the plate. You can read a recap of the game in the link above.

  • John: great article and a very interesting comparison. Could you shed a little more light on why there is such a discrepancy in WAR despite the batting numbers being so close? Are those 14 perceived wins all about defense or is there something else?

  • Off Subject: Since the Cub’s DFA’d Clayton Richard would it make any sense for him to be claimed by PBC and continue to work the kinks out with Indy?

  • John, how much better would this team be defensively with Marte in CF and McCutchen in LF or RF?

    • John Dreker
      July 24, 2015 2:18 pm

      I only think it would be slightly better. I think McCutchen is better than he gets credit for, but Marte is still the better center fielder. With the LF in PNC, he’s almost like a second center fielder, so I think the difference you would see would be more in road games, but I don’t think it’s a big deal. They have one of the fastest outfields in baseball, so McCutchen doesn’t have to do what some other center fielders have to do

      • But McCutchen has a terrible arm…not strong or accurate and I wonder how much Starling’s arm would cut down on advancement and save runs.

  • Only the difference between the NEDDLE and the haystack.

  • On a lighter note, I hope Locke vs. Scherzer isn’t as much of a mismatch as it looks on paper. I mean, we’re due to get to Scherzer right? The no-no this year and then I think he K’d 15 last year while with the Tigers.

    • Locke has been pitching well lately. You never know.

      • True true, I have more confidence in Locke than Ground Chuck right now. You gotta wonder if Morton will be trade bait at some point. By 2017, Glasnow, Taillon, and Kingham could all potentially be in the rotation.

        • If in 2017 the rotation is
          #1 Cole,
          #2 Liriano
          #3 Taillon,
          #4 Glasnow
          #5 Kingham
          Then having Locke or Morton as the #6/long man is pretty fierce. Given that Locke would still be in Arb years, Morton does look like either a great insurance policy, a great #5 starter, or decent trade bait for a team that looks at him as a weak #3 or a solid #4.

    • Scott Kliesen
      July 24, 2015 9:48 pm

      You called it.

  • As much as it pains me, I’ve gotta go with Bonds…

    …I feel the need to shower now.

  • Weirdly, I was just wondering about this the other day. Thanks for reading my mind John.

  • Bonds was the best at playing the ball out of the left field corner and throwing to second in seemingly one motion. Regardless of what you thought of him, the man had talent even before the clear!

    • From what I remember, the arm obviously wasn’t good, but he got rid of the ball quick and he was accurate. He had 75 outfield assists with the Pirates and that’s with him starting as a center fielder

      • No he didn’t have a great arm, it was closer to the noodle variety, but he held a lot of guys to singles with that throw to second.

        • And he also didn’t position himself halfway to Blawnox like Cutch does.

          • Andrew McCutchen is, simply put, not a very good centerfielder. Tonight he got exposed with another throw to 3rd that allowed a runner to move up and eventually score and then Bryce Harper took 2nd on a bloop single on him. He’s just not very good defensively.

  • John, great comparison. How does playing in PNC vs Three Rivers effect the HR totals? Wasn’t Three Rivers a better park for LH hitters than PNC is for RHers?

    • McCutchen has 73 road homers, vs 68 at home, so you could say the park hurts him a little, but for Bonds, he was 93 on the road and 83 at home during his time in Pittsburgh, so it looks like the same can be said for him.

  • Barry Bonds = Complete Jerk

    Cutch = Class Act

    No amount of WAR or on-field stats will EVER get me to put Big Head Barry (BHB) ahead of Cutch.

    I know there are lots of Pittsburghers who love BHB. I ain’t one! 🙂

    • John Dreker
      July 24, 2015 9:22 am

      I didn’t think the first comment would completely miss the point, but hopefully everyone else keeps it related to their play on the field, which is what this was supposed to be about

      • John………….sorry I ruined your article. 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

      • Baseball is about more than statistics John. At one time it was the national sport, and baseball players were “idols” that little kids looked up to. Character is very important in that regard. Your article is great as is, but Lee’s comment is still valid. Cutch is an asset to the community of Pittsburgh. Barry Bonds was not.

        • John Dreker
          July 24, 2015 2:14 pm

          This article is about stats, that’s it

          • Understood. But with Bonds it can never be just about the stats. Your premise is wrong, It is like saying let’s talk about Ty Cobb (stats only) and not mention that he was the most hated player of his era because he played dirty (beyond aggressive). But your article was an interesting and fun comparison. Both athletes were/are MVP caliber elites.

      • John: Few people will ever spark more negativity than BB – and, if he was given a month I would bet he could hit still hit well. His hand to eye coordination was off the chart.

        • John Dreker
          July 24, 2015 2:45 pm

          I think that gets lost with the steroid cloud, but during 2001-04 I had the MLB package and saw about 95% of his at-bats and his hand eye coordination, strike zone judgement and plate patience was far superior to anyone else playing at the time. He was on a different level and those aren’t steroid related, otherwise someone else would have been close to him with all the other users, but no one was.

          The other two things that everyone else overlooks because they hate him, so they attack the flaws, but he had other help. Bonds wear that ridiculous body armor that MLB allowed, so he was able to stand up top of the plate and not worry about getting hit. The umpires also basically let him call balls and strikes. He had the tiniest strike zone in base, and again, no one else came close. When you combine body armor, plate patience, hand eye coordination, umpires respect of him know the strike zone and his ability to only swing at strikes, you had a hitting machine at the plate. It gets lost in the steroid use, but he was incredible during that run. If you could find a disciplined enough hitter to swing only when he had strikes where he wanted them, you would have a .350 hitter with 150 walks and 45 homers now.

          He was also disciplined to a fault because he wouldn’t stray from his tiny strike zone, even when he had runners on base and they pitched to him. I saw numerous pitches that were clearly strikes for anyone else, that he would let go and accept the walk. The Giants fans would boo the pitcher, but the pitcher was painting the corners like Picasso

      • John -Great article in comparing Barry Bonds v. Andrew McCutchen. I think it’s incomplete until Cutch has enough playoff appearances to compare both players on accomplishments on the biggest stage. That to me defines greatness as a Pirate. Maz’s dinger in 60, Clemente’s dominance in ’71, Stargell’s homer in Game 7 of ’79. It is living up to the moment. From a regular season standpoint, it is a close comparison. Where Cutch could really change the conversation is with a breakout October.

        • John Dreker
          July 24, 2015 2:24 pm

          I think it’s definitely closer than WAR gives McCutchen credit for. I would definitely take Bonds the player, especially during that 1990-92 period, but it’s not like there is a huge difference between what they have done in a Pirates uniform. Between traditional stats and SABR stats, they are basically at the same place and the same number of plate appearances. That tells you how special McCutchen has been

    • I’m with you, no comparison as far as what Cutch means to the city, the fans. Come back at me when we can compare him to Stargell. I can’t believe that Barry would be rated better on defense. His defense for me was summed up on one crappy throw to home that couldn’t get Sid Bream. He was a complete jerk then, still is.

    • From a purely baseball perspective, both players are more alike than different. As the article suggests.

      What you and many other fans fail to acknowledge is how Bonds led the Pirates back to relevance just as Cutch has done for these Bucs.

      Bonds may not have Cutch’s personality, but he surely had his game. And he displayed it to our enjoyment for the time he was here. And I am grateful for it.

      And for the record, Bonds throw wasn’t the play that cost Pirates vs Braves, it was Lind’s error.

      • I am in your corner with the Lind error. If not for that, we’re in the World Series. I honestly have never blamed Bonds for that off line throw or being out of position.

        I just hate Bonds for who he is as a person. 🙂

      • Yes, Bonds, Bonilla, VanSlyke and Doug Drabek among others lead the Pirates back to relevance, and almost to a World Series. But Bonds’ legacy is more than numbers. I don’t hate Barry Bonds, and never did. But I do look at the bigger picture and over the years his self absorbtion has diminished the impact of his athletic prowess.

        • Scott Kliesen
          July 24, 2015 9:47 pm

          I loved each of those guys you mentioned, and many others on those early 90’s teams, but clearly Bonds was the cream of that crop.

          As for his self absorption and your feelings towards him as time goes by, those are irrelevant to his skills as a baseball player in Pittsburgh.

          • I clearly stated that I don’t have any feelings about Bonds one way or the other. Hard to see how you could misconstrue that. And Bonds’ misbehavior has overshadowed his skills as a baseball player. He will be remembered not just in Pittsburgh, but across the country as the most hated player of his era. Who else will come close? The populace doesn’t dislike him because of his baseball skills.

            • By stating he’s the most hated player of his generation and it’s not even close is making your feelings known as far as I’m concerned.

              I think he’s in a group of players from that generation who are despised. Canseco, McGwire, Clemens and Palmeiro are all in same boat.

    • Amen- Bonds was a special talent but he was always a spoiled person. He was a jerk when he was growing up and still is. It is very interesting that their stat lines are so similar. Question is what will be the comparison 10 years from now w/o PED’s. Also PNC is a tough field to hit HR’s out as a righty. It didn’t matter at Three Rivers because of the field symmetry.

      • Bonds really took off in 1993, so I think at that point they are going to look like different players. If McCutchen has a season like Bonds had that year, Pirates fans are in for special treat next year. I think the problem with my comparison if you want to look at it from a non-stats perspective, is that the Pirates called up Bonds way too quick and they cost themselves 1-2 big years by doing that. McCutchen was brought along slower and was more prepared when he got to the majors and his stats got better quicker.

        • The Pirates called up Bonds way too quick? I hadn’t heard that, I guess it makes some sense if you look at hitting numbers but Bond amassed the 20th most WAR for age 21-23 seasons since 1950. I’m not sure I by this argument.

          • He was up in the majors less than a year after he signed his contract and hit .223 that first season, striking out over 100 times for the only time in his career despite missing the first two months. Way too quick might be a little stretch, but he played 115 total minor league games, 44 above A ball. Just imagine if the Pirates called him up a year later and they were able to get that 1993 season out of him too just by putting him through the minors at a slightly slower pace, but one that wouldn’t have been considered holding him back.

            • Alright I cannot argue with that, I’m not very old and didn’t follow the minors closely until about 10 years ago.

              It is pretty stark reading about the differences between today and late 90s, I’s would assume it would be even more so in the late 80s.

              • I like the thought of maximizing value of a player by getting a more polished version to the majors at a slower rate. In the past on a bad team, you may have seen Elias Diaz, Alen Hanson and even Josh Bell this year and people would be happy they held their own, but you’re not getting the best out of them when they are still learning at the Major League level.

                Aramis Ramirez is a good example of doing it wrong. He was in the majors for three partial seasons before he was good, so Pirates ended up trading him because he was going to be expensive the next year. Obviously the trade didn’t work out at all, but maybe if he’s there another season before he starts making a lot, the Pirates are better and he doesn’t get traded, or he gets a much better return. He should have spent all of 1998 in AA and started 99 in AAA, getting to the Pirates sometime that season if all went well, but instead he was building up MLB service time.

                I actually didn’t mind him getting dealt when he did because he looked like he was giving half effort out there and his defense was very Pedro-like. It was the return that I hated and even back then with him playing bad and Lofton just a throw in, it looked almost as bad as it turned out. The Pirates obviously would have never signed him after 2006, but they lost three productive years for nothing but salary relief.