Now that the dust has somewhat settled from the Andrew McCutchen trade to the San Francisco Giants, I thought I would look at the stats he put up in his time in Pittsburgh and where they rank him all-time with the Pirates.
I’m mentioning these stats while knowing that the trade is still a fresh wound for some people and they will point to what he meant to the team and the city as a person. That angle has been covered many times and he’s not the first star for the Pirates who was traded away during his prime in an extremely unpopular trade for the fans.
The Jake Beckley trade in 1896 was doomed and disliked from the start and turned out horrible. Kiki Cuyler was handed to the Cubs in 1927 (long before the Aramis Ramirez trade) and the return was awful. Hall of Fame shortstop Arky Vaughan was sent to Brooklyn in an underwhelming return of four players, which only turned out fine when Vaughan retired early to help in the WWII effort. Ralph Kiner to the Cubs in 1953 for six marginal players and cash was extremely unpopular and did a huge number on attendance figures. His back injury limited what he did outside of Pittsburgh, but that trade had potential to be disastrous. Four future Hall of Famers in their prime. Fans hated the trades from the start and none of the returns worked out well.
The difference with all of those unpopular trades of stars in their prime was that there was no such thing as free agency. Fans didn’t like the returns, they were vocal about it and then they eventually got over it, unlike me, who still hates the Dots Miller trade made years before my grandfather was born.
At least with McCutchen, the Pirates were only losing one season, and who knows, maybe he comes back and adds to the stats you see below. He wouldn’t be the first star center fielder to do that. Lloyd Waner was traded away in 1941 (was past his prime by then) and then came back to finish his career in Pittsburgh in June of 1944, sticking around for the 1945 season as well.
Now that you know that other stars were traded away in their prime and fans survived, here are the statistical rankings for Andrew McCutchen with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
In games played, he ranks 14th with 1,346, sitting between Gus Suhr (13th) and Al Oliver. Those aren’t the elite players in team history, but both were stars in their day and stayed around in Pittsburgh that long for a reason.
McCutchen scored 814 runs, putting him in 12th place ahead of Bill Mazeroski. He’s one spot behind Patsy Donovan, who was helped by playing in a huge era for offense, but he was also an extremely talented outfielder. He also managed the Pirates for two seasons while he was still a player, so he has some historical significance in franchise history.
In my own greedy Pittsburgh history mind, this next category is the only reason I liked the McCutchen trade. He ranks 14th with 1,463 hits, putting him right between two pretty good names in Dave Parker and Dick Groat.
As for the history part, the Pittsburgh Pirates are the only team that has every one of their top ten leaders in hits in the Hall of Fame. Clemente, Wagner, P. Waner, Carey, Traynor, L. Waner, Stargell, Mazeroski, Vaughan, Clarke. If you need first names for any of those players, just stop reading now. With McCutchen trending down, he is on pace for a marginal shot at the Hall of Fame now, so I didn’t want him to ruin that fact/group. Even if he did make the Hall of Fame someday, it still ruins the 10-for-10 fact until that day. Sounds crazy I know, but it’s a great fact if you think about it.
McCutchen ranks tenth with 2,452 total bases, sitting behind nine Hall of Famers. He didn’t ruin a 10-for-10 here when he passed Dave Parker for tenth place late in the 2017 season.
When McCutchen makes his Lloyd Waner-like return at age 39, he will need just two doubles to match Mazeroski in eighth place. McCutchen’s last double (#292), which came during his last at-bat for the Pirates on October 1st, broke a tie with Vaughan for ninth place.
Home runs are where McCutchen really made his mark on the all-time list. He sits in fourth place, one of four players in team history to reach the 200 milestone. The three names ahead of him are Stargell, Kiner and Clemente. McCutchen finished with 203 homers.
With one more season, McCutchen could have moved up into seventh place in RBIs. He drove in 725 runs, enough for 11th place now behind Parker. Another 77 would have put him four spots higher.
McCutchen stole a lot of bases early in his time with the Pirates, then slowed down with 28 total in his last three years. He finished with 171, putting him in 16th place. Starling Marte passed him last year, making it the only category here where he wasn’t the active leader.
McCutchen walked 685 times, putting him behind six Hall of Famers at the top of that list.
As for the non-counting stats, the four main percentage stats are batting average, on base, slugging and OPS. McCutchen was much higher on the batting average list, and slightly higher on the other three, but his last three seasons slowly knocked him down. Out of all players with at least 1,500 plate appearances in each category, here are McCutchen’s rankings, along with the player directly in front of and behind him on each list.
BA: 33. Bob Elliot .292, 34. McCutchen .291, 35. Dick Groat .290
OBP: 14t. Fred Clarke .379, 14t. McCutchen .379, 16. Jason Thompson .376
Slugging: 11. Paul Waner .490, 12. McCutchen .487, 13. Craig Wilson .486
OPS: 11. Mike Smith .881, 12. McCutchen .866, 13. Honus Wagner .862
That’s a pretty good name to be in front of for OPS, though it should have some background. Wagner played in the deadball era, where offense was at an all-time low. He led the league eight times in OPS. On the flip side, Mike Smith played during the huge offensive era of the mid-1890’s. So while he was a very good (and interesting) player, that spot is based more on his era. Smith finished in the top ten in OPS three times in his career, never higher than third.
As for WAR rankings, I used Baseball-Reference for it. It’s a subjective stat, but for the most part it seems to do a solid job when used throughout history. McCutchen has a 40 WAR, which has him tenth for position players on the Pirates behind Ralph Kiner and ahead of Tommy Leach, who put in 228 more games than McCutchen in Pittsburgh. If you throw in pitchers, which is the only category here that you can, then McCutchen is 14th in team history for WAR.
McCutchen is clearly going down as one of the all-time greats in team history. He’s not in the Clemente/Wagner tier and due to time served in Pittsburgh, he also falls short of the Paul Waner/Willie Stargell group, but I think you can mention him in the next group of players without getting too much flack on any of them. Arky Vaughan is an extremely underrated all-time great, to the point some people argue about his Hall of Fame place. If you like the WAR stat, then his 64 WAR in 1,411 games in Pittsburgh is only behind Wagner for WAR per game played. I would put him ahead of McCutchen as well.
That top 6-10 range still puts McCutchen among and above many Hall of Famers who have donned a Pittsburgh jersey since the franchise started in the American Association in 1882.