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« Freddie Freeman and the Outside Corner | Main | AL ROY Myers Must Improve Approach in Pitchers Counts »

'Cutch's All-Around Game Extends to Batter's Box, Too

Andrew McCutchen earned the 2013 National League MVP by displaying all-around excellence. There's the speed and savvy that helped him run down line drives destined for the gaps (+7 Defensive Runs Saved) and take extra bases at the highest clip (64 percent) among regular players. There's the patience that produced his second consecutive season with a .400+ on-base percentage. And there are those Gary Sheffield-esque wrists, allowing him to scorch pitches to all fields.

That last talent -- making loud contact in every direction -- may be the most impressive aspect of McCutchen's MVP campaign. Opposing pitchers, burned by throwing inside to 'Cutch in 2012, backed off and located on the outer half of the strike zone in 2013. McCutchen adapted, proving every bit as capable of stinging outer-half pitches to center and right field as he is pulling inside pitches down the line.

The Bucs' center fielder annihilated hurlers who threw him a pitch on the inner half of the plate in 2012, slugging .614 against those offerings. In response, opponents shifted to the outer portion of the zone this past year: 'Cutch saw the lowest percentage of pitches thrown inside (23.5) among all qualified right-handed hitters, compared to a league average 30 percent in 2012.

Did that faze 'Cutch? Not in the slightest. He slugged .526 versus pitches thrown to the outer half in 2013, besting all righty batters save for AL MVP Miguel Cabrera (.611) and short-time teammate Marlon Byrd (.540).

McCutchen's slugging percentage by pitch location in 2013

Thanks in large part to his crushing outer-half pitches, McCutchen was equally productive hitting the ball up the middle or to the opposite field (10 home runs, .621 slugging percentage) and pulling pitches to left field (11 HR, .613 slugging percentage). His all-fields approach is especially important at a venue like PNC Park, which smothers right-handed pull hitters. McCutchen's home park decreases home runs hit by righties by 36 percent and overall offensive production by 13 percent compared to a neutral stadium, according to StatCorner.

Through age 26, McCutchen's resume reads like that of a future Cooperstown inductee. He has tallied the third-most Wins Above Replacement (26.8) through that age in franchise history, trailing only Hall-of-Famer Arky Vaughan (48 WAR) and Barry Bonds (41.1 WAR), the last Pirate to win an MVP back in 1992. 'Cutch tops a score of others with bronze plaques, including outfielders Ralph Kiner (25.4 WAR), Paul Waner (23.8 WAR) and Roberto Clemente (20.8 WAR).

Unlike Bonds, McCutchen won't be leaving town after his MVP campaign -- he's signed through the 2018 season at what can only be described as a bargain-basement rate, given his skill and the new TV cash permeating the game. With 'Cutch locked up and both the major league roster and farm system loaded with young talent, the Bucs can finally forget about Barry and 1992.

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