Caption: McCutchen has the Pirates in first place and is a threat to win the NL Triple Crown.
In case you haven’t heard, the best player in baseball may be playing for the Pittsburgh Pirates. When you think of the great Pirates in history, one may think of Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell and Barry Bonds. However, none of these all-time Pirates greats, arguably, had a season like McCutchen is having.
McCutchen has emerged as the front-runner for the National League MVP Award. The most impressive part of his season? He is doing it on a team where there is little “protection” in front of or behind him in the lineup.
McCutchen is running away with the MVP race, but his recent surge after the break has many people asking if McCutchen is a legit Triple Crown threat. The National League Triple Crown has not been won since 1937 when Joe Medwick did it with the St. Louis Cardinals. Medwick finished that season batting .374 with 31 HR and 154 RBI.
Let’s look at McCutchen’s statistics to date: .369, 22 HR and 65 RBI. He has an OPS of over 1.000. McCutchen did not homer once in the month of April. His first home run came on May 8. He is also feasting on left-handed pitching, hitting an astounding .470. In Bonds’ best season with the Pirates (1992) Bonds hit .311 with 34 HR and 103 RBI. In 1967, Clemente hit .357/23/110.
McCutchen (.369) currently leads the MLB in average. The next closest player is Melky Cabrera with a clip of .351. McCutchen (64) only trails Carlos Beltran (65) for the league lead in RBIs by one. Ryan Braun leads the NL in home runs with 26, but McCutchen only trails by four with 22 long balls of his own. Braun recently suffered a groin strain that could land him on the DL, which could allow for McCutchen to surpass him in that department soon.
Pittsburgh is watching a superstar bloom before its eyes. McCutchen took a hometown discount with a six-year/$51 million deal in the offseason, showing Pirates fans he was committed to the organization. He has earned every penny. McCutchen was rated as a five-tool player coming up through the system. In the first couple seasons of his career, he showed glimpses of power and average, but this season it has all come together. McCutchen is on pace to have one of the best seasons ever by a Pittsburgh Pirate.
McCutchen has all but carried the Pirates to first-place contention in the NL Central. He is starting to get the national recognition he deserves. In 2012, it would be hard pressed to find a player better than McCutchen, as he is arguably the best player in game right now. McCutchen, who frequently uses the hash tag #WhyNotNow on his Twitter handle, is living up to every word. He would love nothing more than to end the streak of losing in Pittsburgh and do it on baseball’s biggest stage in October.