By Jason Shetler
Prior to last season, Andrew McCutchen was viewed as one of the faces of MLB, with his MVP caliber numbers, as well as his popularity off the field. While McCutchen is still popular around the game, the numbers were a different story for him, as he statistically had the worst season of his big league career in 2016. The obvious question is whether or not McCutchen can bounce back this season – Here is why I think it could happen.
There’s no denying that McCutchen’s overall numbers offensively last year were mediocre compared to the three seasons in which the Pirates made the playoffs. However, the second half stats were at the very least more promising than what he did in the first half of the season.
2016 first half: .319 OBP, 8.8 BB%, 99 wRC+, 24.7 K%
2016 second half: .358 OBP, 11.9 BB%, 115 wRC+, 16.9 K%
While McCutchen’s on base percentage in the second half still wasn’t extraordinary, it was certainly much better compared to the first half. Also, the walks were up while the strikeouts went down in the second half.
According to Statcast, McCutchen had an Average Exit Velocity of 91.2 mph, while the Average Distance of the balls he hit was 235.5 feet. Both of those figures were above the MLB average. The power also remained, as he posted a .430 slugging percentage, which was fifth best among National League center fielders.
McCutchen will be entering his age 30 season, so he’s still in his prime. He hasn’t lost the ability to draw walks and his power/bat speed combo continues to be very good. It remains to be seen if McCutchen can return to his MVP form, but there’s little reason to think that he can’t perform at an All-Star level again.