Friday, July 29, 2011

In The Sabermetric Spotlight: Andrew McCutchen

Let's quickly recap the Sabermetric Spotlight targets so far...

Since Jair Jurrjens was featured in the Spotlight's debut article, he's posted a 5.50 ERA, 1.44 WHIP and no wins. I don't think he's this bad, but expect the regression to continue.

Adrian Gonzalez, since being featured in the Spotlight, has been on a 7 game hitting streak, hitting .533 with eight runs and nine RBI. The problem has been the complete lack of power, as he only has one XBH in that span. Still, I don't think anyone is complaining.

Adrian Beltre got thrown on the DL immediately after I posted my article on him. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, I take full responsibility for jinxing him.

Last week, I touched on three relievers who have been flying under the radar and providing solid fantasy value. Of the three, only Vinnie Pestano has pitched. He had a rough outing the day before the article posted, but on 7/27 he struck on the side against the Angels on 14 pitches. I still feel all three are worth looks in deeper leagues.

Enough about the past, on to the future! One of the brightest stars in baseball today is Andrew McCutchen. He seemed to burst onto the scene on a bad Pittsburgh team, but now with the Pirates playing at a high level, where is his value going. This week, we shine The Sabermetric Spotlight on...

Andrew McCutchen, OF Pittsburgh Pirates

I have to start the article out with a fascinating comparison I came across. Take a look at the below chart. This is McCutchen's fantasy performance in his first three seasons (2011 is pace):

Not bad counting stats, especially for the first three years of a young man's career. If not for McCutchen's slow week, these numbers would all appear higher (and I actually expect them all to be slightly higher). The interesting thing about these numbers is the stark resemblance they have to the first three years of another Pirate outfielder who started his career in Pittsburgh. Andrew McCutchen is 5'9" and 190 lbs, and the player I'm referring to was 6'1" and 185 lbs his rookie season. Can you guess who it is? His numbers are below:

I'm sure that many of you guessed it by now, but here is one final clue. This outfielder went on to become the All-Time Home Run King. Yes, that's right. The numbers in the table above are from none other than former Pirate Barry Bonds. The numbers speak for themselves, and the similarities are somewhat startling. In a lot of ways, McCutchen's numbers are better. I'm not saying McCutchen will ever hit more than 40 HR or become the All-Time HR King, but the potential for a perennial All-Star is there.

But what makes McCutchen so good? He's a smaller player than your usual outfielder, and that hair has to slow him down in the OF and on the basepaths, right?

Let's quickly compare his spray chart from last year (to 7/26) to this year. Both of the images are pasted below. The easiest way to see the point I'm trying to make is to open each image in a new tab and cycle through them. Images courtesy of

Do you see what I see? In 2010, McCutchen was hitting the ball to all fields pretty consistently but in 2011, it looks like he's pulling the ball more, especially on ground-ball outs. I'm not sure if this is a result of higher pressure situations due to the Pirates being in a divisional race or an adjusted approach at the plate. The but data is interesting, nonetheless.

This is all well and good but what does it mean for his future production? With McCutchen playing for a team that scores more runs, his numbers are bound to increase simply based on opportunity. So far, he has shown the ability to adjust to big league pitchers as they try to figure him out, and he's done a fantastic job.

Even with McCutchen's slump the last week or so, he still ranks 3rd in WAR in the National League, only behind Fantasy studs Jose Reyes and Matt Kemp. Another interesting fact is that McCutchen's BABIP of .308 is the second lowest he's posted at any level in his entire career. The only year McCutchen posted a lower BABIP was in 2007 when he played in AA. McCutchen's other numbers suggest he will continue to improve as he goes on, shown by his stable LD%, increasing BB% and others.

I would take this week's slump as an opportunity to grab McCutchen, if the price was right. I usually try not to toot my own horn, but shortly before I wrote the Spotlight article on Jair Jurrjens, I made a trade straight-up for McCutchen, and I could not be happier. If you have the opportunity to make this type of deal, it should be a no brainer, especially in keeper and dynasty formats.

Do you have a comment about the article? Do you have a suggestion for the next player featured In The Sabermetric Spotlight? Hit me up on twitter @SillyLittleGame or leave a comment below!

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