Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Andrew McCutchen is having a down year

Last year, I wrote about how some Pirate fans felt that 2010 was a down year for Andrew McCutchen. I attempted to refute those claims on the basis that it was his perceived defensive shortcomings that held his season's perception down.

So it is somewhat surprising that I am here to type that 2011 was a down year for Cutch-22. On the surface this seems counterintuitive as McCutchen is in the midst of a 5.3 WAR season after his first two years being 3.5 and 3.7 respectively.

The first half of the year looked like McCutchen was on the verge of becoming a legitimate superstar in the league as he went .291/.390/.505 (894 OPS) with 14 HR and 15 SB's in the 88 games prior to the All-Star break. But McCutchen came out cold from the ASB and has stayed cold in the 2nd half, with a .226/.335/.382 (717 OPS) line and 6 HR and 5 SB's in 52 games.

Contrary to last year, when McCutchen and the rest of the outfielders were subjected to the bizarre defensive alignments, Cutch-22 has a very favorable Ultimate Zone Rating for his fielding (4.8/150 versus his -12.9/150 in 2010). So last year's 3.7 WAR was held down by his poor defensive rating while his 5.3 WAR may be buoyed by his positive defensive rating. I'm becoming evermore skeptical of defensive ratings, so when I see a player greatly augmented by one, it sticks out.

My reasoning is that McCutchen's Weighted On-Base Average (wOBA) has held steady from his first two years. His three wOBA's are (in order) .368, .363, and .364. Additionally, his OPS's are steady at 836, 814, and 830. So McCutchen's offensive component of his WAR rating has held steady, but his defensive rating (the part that I'm skeptical of true value) has fluctuated which has caused his high WAR total of 5.3 in 2011.

Something else to be concerned about is that his overall contact percentages have dropped this year too. As per his Fangraphs page, his contact rate within the strike zone has dropped from 90.6% to 87.9% this year. His overall contact rate for all pitches has also dropped from 84.6% to 81.0% and his swinging strike rate has increased from 5.8% to 7.6% this year.

Let me clarify something -- I am still a huge, huge McCutchen fan. I think he has another gear in him and he is capable of having a 25 HR/40 SB season, which would be monsterous. But this season is not his best one. The good news is that Cutch-22 will not turn 25 until October, which means his peak seasons of age 27-29 are still ahead of him and in line for us as Pirates fans.

No comments:

Post a Comment