Why Andrew McCutchen Won’t Save San Francisco
The San Francisco Giants surprised the baseball world by acquiring Andrew McCutchen and cash considerations from the Pittsburgh Pirates for a right-handed relief pitcher named Kyle Crick, outfielder Bryan Reynolds, and international pool money. The Pirates are the clear winners on this trade due to McCutchen’s declining play, the chance to acquire new prospects, and increasing their international pool money. Conventional wisdom points towards a future that McCutchen will be nothing but a player on the decline. The Giants are banking their World Series aspirations on players of the past, by acquiring McCutchen yesterday and Evan Longoria not too long ago. Their hope is that both these former stars will resurrect last season’s atrocious offense, which was ranked 29th in runs. The hope is that the pop McCutchen and Longoria had seasons ago will be the juice their offense needs. It is a foolish thought to think that these two guys are the answer to their problems. Longoria and McCutchen are not the answer to the Giants’ future, and they might have just shut the door on their hopes of being a perennial contender for the World Series by mortgaging the future on two stars of the past.
The reality is that McCutchen is a 31-year-old player that is already past his prime. I could point to stat after stat explaining this, but it would become repetitive. However, there are a few stats that will clearly highlight these decline, but first, take a look at a few general stats so far from his career.
Notice that his peak years occurred in 2013 and 2014. It is up for debate if his best year was his NL MVP winning season in 2013 or his stat breaking season in 2014. That debate however, is the exact argument as to why McCutchen is a poor choice to revive a dismal Giants’ lineup. McCutchen’s best years are behind him and the stats don’t lie. You can see an obvious decline in production from year to year starting in 2014 and this does not spell good news for a 31-year-old. While there is a slight spike in the year 2017, that is nothing but a bump along his downward trend. These stats tell nothing, but a peak inside his career. There are more stats to consider, and that is shown below.
His defensive metrics are very mediocre and it is extremely evident in his OAA (Outs Above Average). An OAA “is the cumulative effect of all individual Catch Probability plays a fielder has been credited or debited with, making it a range-based metric of fielding skill that accounts for the number of plays made and the difficulty of them.” McCutchen had an OAA of 0 for the 2017 season. shows that he is not the dominant defensive threat he once was. His OAA is ranked for a poor 73 out of 167 recorded outfielders. This is not a guy you should expect to come in and be lights out for your biggest spot in the outfield, center field. McCutchen is a liability and that is what the Giants’ had in center field all season. If they were looking to bring in a vacuum for center field, they should have pursed the speed demon Billy Hamilton out of Cincinnati.
Now, the big question: does McCutchen swing with as much pop as he did during his all-star dominate years of 2013 and 2014? The answer couldn’t be completely answered by the earlier stats that we’ve peaked at, but there are some advance metrics that will allow us to see if McCutchen is still the player he once was. The first metric is the percentage of hard hit balls that McCutchen has hit throughout his career, and the graph below will showcase his career percentages verses the MLB averages.
This shows that he is taking a sharp decline and it is not a good trend for him. The average MLB player in 2017 is hitting just slightly at 30% of their hits being “hard”, while McCutchen is sitting at 35%. That 35% is hardly elite and does not warrant a proclamation for him being an answer to the Giants’ problems by any means. McCutchen was nothing but slightly above average by many of these advanced metrics, and they all project him towards a slow, but steady decline.
Another telling sign of McCutchen trend towards being average is his BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play). “BABIP measures a player’s batting average exclusively on balls hit into the field of play, removing outcomes not affected by the opposing defense (namely home runs and strikeouts)“. Looking at this stat shows that McCutchen cannot be the cataylist that he once was, as you will see in the graphic below.
You see that he was once deadly with putting balls in play in the 2012 through 2014 season. As you see though, his average starts to go down consistently in 2015 and onward. This is a clearer stat metric that showcases that McCutchen is not the prolific threat he was with a bat in his hands. He struggles to put a ball in play and is nothing but average at it. He is not someone that can spark a lineup, and he is not someone that will be putting the ball in play at an elite level.
McCutchen’s Hard % and BABIP showcase why he is nothing, but your typical MLB player. He is someone who is past his prime, and will be only someone who can fill the hole at the bottom of a lineup.
McCutchen will go down as a very good player and no one can take that away from him. The sad reality is that every player cannot escape mother nature. McCutchen’s time is coming, and this time will be experienced by the Giants.
Andrew McCutchen will not be the savior of San Francisco.
Andrew McCutchen will not solve the offensive struggles of San Francisco.
Andrew McCutchen will be nothing more but a band aid to the wound that San Francisco will have to eventually heal. This healing will take a complete rebuild of their organization and the Giants’ domination of this millennial is coming to a screeching halt.