McCutchen makes contact with the pitch
The Pirates have been fortunate to have a very storied history, even if the Pirates of the current generation aren't performing as well as their previous counterparts have. But in this Pirates team there is potential, and it all starts with Andrew McCutchen.
Widely considered a five-tool talent, McCutchen has been the backbone of this Pirates team since his call-up in June of 2009 after the Pirates moved fan-favorite Nate McLouth to the Braves. McCutchen, even after a disappointing 2011 campaign that saw his batting average drop, but his power numbers rise, will be a permanent fixture in the Pirates outfield.
He displays the five tools—power, speed, contact, glove and arm—that make up a complete player.
In the slides that follow I will grade eight players in Pirates history, including McCutchen, on those five tools to determine the best five-tool talent in Pirates history. Each tool for each player will be graded on a scale of 1-5; 1 being the worst and 5 being the best.
Bonilla played 16 major league seasons for 8 different teams
Bobby Bonilla ranks seventh on my list of the top five-tool players in Pirates history.
Bonilla didn't have any killer tools, but he was solid across the board in all facets of the game. Bonilla played 16 seasons in major league baseball: six with the Pirates, five with the Mets, two each with the Marlins and Orioles and one season with the White Sox, Braves, Dodgers and Cardinals.
Below is a grade for each tool and a short description of each tool.
Arm: 3—Bonilla had a solid arm for the outfield which translated into 54 assists.
Glove: 3—Bonilla had his fair share of struggles defensively at third base with a .931 fielding percentage, but in 1990 the Pirates elected to move him to right field based on 67 errors in two seasons at third. He ended his career with a .976 fielding percentage in the outfield which is about average.
Contact: 3—Bonilla, a .279 career hitter, wasn't bad in the contact department, but he wasn't a star either. He did hit slightly better, .284, during his time with the Pirates.
Power: 3—With 287 career homers and a high of 34 in 1993 with the Mets, he proved that he had the ability to hit home runs. He also put up 44 doubles in 1991.
Speed: 3—61 triples and 45 stolen bases are solid, but are not barn burning either.
Total score: 15 out of 25
"Pops" is one of the most beloved athletes in Pirates history, and even in the history of MLB. He comes in ranked at sixth on my list of top five-tool stars in Pirates history.
He played 21 seasons for the Pirates. During his career he was a seven-time All-Star and co-MVP of the National League in 1979. Pops was also a key cog in two Pirates World Championships.
Stargell was known for hitting monstrous home runs. He hit the ball completely out of Forbes Field and Dodger Stadium. Stargell passed away on April 9, 2001, the date in which PNC Park opened in Pittsburgh. His legacy is still felt at PNC Park as a massive statue of Pops was unveiled the day PNC Park opened.
Below are the grades for each of Stargell's tools.
Arm: 3—Stargell split time in his career between the outfield and first base. He was known for having a strong arm and he compiled 102 career outfield assists.
Glove: 3—Pops was never a gold glover, but he was never labeled as a bad defensive player either. He posted a career fielding percentage of .961 in the outfield and .991 at first base.
Contact: 3—Stargell was a career .282 hitter who hit for a career high .315 in 1966. This was certainly a solid tool, especially for a power hitter, but not much above average.
Power: 5—Pops was known for monster home runs. He hit a career 475 home runs, and that total could have been much higher playing in a park less spacious as Forbes Field. He had a career high of 48 homers in 1971. He also had the first 40/40 season (homers and doubles) since 1940 when he went for 44 and 43 respectively in 1973.
Speed: 3—Stargell didn't have blazing speed, but he wasn't slow either as referenced by his career 55 triples. Earlier in his career Pops displayed more speed as he hit a career-high eight triples in 1965. The longer his career went, the more his speed diminished, as is the case with most players.
Total: 17 out of 25
Speed is the best tool currently possessed by Andrew McCutchen
Andrew McCutchen comes in at number five of the Pirates' best five-tool players of all time.
Some of you may be wondering how on earth McCutchen is ahead of a hall-of-famer like Willie Stargell when he's only been in the big leagues two and a half seasons and has yet to hit his stride.
It's pretty simple; the formula. Stargell was very average across the board aside from his popularity and massive power that he displayed. McCutchen, on the other hand, is average or slightly above average in all facets of the game, excluding his impressive speed.
Below are the grades and short description of McCutchen's tools.
Arm: 3—McCutchen has solid arm strength, above average at best, with the ability to improve. In his two and a half seasons he has been among the leaders at his position in assists with 27 over that period of time.
Glove: 4—McCutchen has a very good glove, but defensive metrics (not very reliable) have not been so kind to McCutchen, as they suggest he's in the bottom third defensively at center field. His .987 career fielding percentage seems to suggest that he is very solid.
Contact: 3—McCutchen is a career .276 hitter which isn't good but isn't bad either, especially at this stage of his career. He still has time to develop, and he has tremendous bat speed which helps him make very good contact with the ball.
Power: 3—McCutchen's power numbers have steadily improved in his two and a half seasons in the bigs. In 2009 he hit 12 homers in just over half a season, then upped that total to 16 in 2010 and finally 23 in 2011. Could he be a perennial 30-home run guy? Only time will tell, but even 25 a season would be a great place for him to be at.
Speed: 5 - Speed is McCutchen's best tool as he can use it anywhere on the field. He covers a lot of ground in the outfield, and can turn up the jets on the base paths. He has 19 triples in his career and 78 stolen bases.
Total score: 18 out of 25
Paul Waner ranks in a three-way tie for second on my list of the top five-tool players in Pirates history.
Waner was one of the most feared hitters in the 1930's and was the first Pirate to be awarded a league MVP, which he earned in 1927. Waner was also a four-time All-Star and became a member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1952.
Below are the grades for Paul Waner.
Arm: 4—Waner ended his career third all-time in assists from right field with 236 assists. His arm was widely regarded during his time on the Senior Circuit.
Glove: 4—A career fielding percentage of .975 is certainly very good, and 12 times in his career he appeared in the top five of fielding percentage for a season.
Contact: 5—Waner is a .333 career hitter with 3,152 hits. He led the National League in hits in 1927 and 1934 and was a three-time batting champ. He had single-season highs of .380 average and 237 hits in 1927.
Power: 4—He didn't have many home runs in his career, (113) but he was always a threat to get extra base knocks. On several occasions Waner led the league in doubles (1928 and 1932) and he was also a regular in the top 10 of slugging percentage, with highs of 62 doubles in 1932 and 15 homers in 1929. He is 11th of all time with 605 doubles.
Speed: 4—Waner had 191 triples and 104 stolen bases, which are certainly very good numbers there. He also was said to have a very good range in the outfield. He had 40 triples over his rookie season in 1926 and MVP winning season of 1927, including 22 of them in 1926. His 191 triples ranks him 10th of all time.
Total score: 21 out of 25
Honus Wagner statue outside of PNC Park.
Honus Wagner comes in a second place tie on my list of the top five-tool players in Pirates history.
Wagner, is widely considered the best shortstop to ever play the game and is an original member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, elected in 1936.
"The Flying Dutchmen" played 20 seasons in Major League Baseball, 17 with the Pirates and won eight batting titles, second only to Ty Cobb (12). Wagner's legacy also continued as a coach for the Pirates from 1933 to 1951.
Below are the grades for Honus Wagner.
Arm: 4—Wagner was very versatile defensively when playing at short stop, first base, third base, second base and even in the outfield. Wagner had a very good arm at shortstop and his arm translated elsewhere in the diamond.
Glove: 4—Wagner had a fielding percentage of .940 at shortstop. He also spent 14 years in the top five of fielding percentage at shortstop. He is a versatile defender with above-average abilities at shortstop.
Contact: 5—He is a .328 career hitter with 3420 hits (seventh all-time). He also ranks sixth all-time in singles. Wagner has a single-season high of 201 hits in 1900 and 1908 with a career-high .381 batting average in 1900 as well. He's very good at making contact and putting the ball in play.
Power: 3—101 career homers, 643 doubles. The doubles rank him ninth of all time and while 101 career home runs in today's standard isn't a lot, he was consistently in the top 10-15 every year in home runs. He hit a career-high 10 home runs in 1898 and 1908 and added career bests in doubles in 1900 with 45.
Speed: 5—Wagner certainly had the speed as evidenced by his 252 triples and 723 stolen bases; third and 10th all-time respectively. Simply put, the man could flat out fly. He had career highs of 22 triples in 1900 and 61 stolen bases in 1907.
Total score: 21 out of 25
Barry Bonds during his final years in Pittsburgh
Barry Bonds, one of the most controversial stars in baseball history, comes in at second place in my top five-tool stars in Pirates history.
Everyone knows about his later years, but early on in his career he was a thin kid with an uncanny ability to play baseball. He had it all; speed, the ability to make contact, the glove, the arm and as time went on the power to go with it.
How does the seven-time National League MVP, eight-time Gold Glove winner, and 14-time All-Star stack up to other Pirates greats like Wagner and Waner?
Arm: 4—Bonds has always had a very strong arm and that is evidenced by his 159 career assists in left field, good for fourth all-time at that position.
Glove: 4—He is an eight-time Gold Glove award winner. Need you say more? Over the course of his career however the glove wore down, unlike Wagner and Waner who kept up their defensive prowess over the course of their careers.
Contact: 4—He has a .298 career batting average with a high of .370 in 2002. His 2,935 hits keeps him just off the prestigious 3,000-hit list. His career high for hits in a season was a modest 181 hits in 1993.
Power: 5—Is there really even a question here with his power grade? 762 career homers and 73 homers in a year are both the best of all time.
Speed: 4 - Early in his career, Bonds was at his best when he posted nine triples (77 in his career) in 1987 and 52 steals (514 in his career) in 1990. Much like his glove, over the course of his career his speed began to take a hit and his numbers regressed.
Total score: 21 out of 25
One of the most popular photo destinations outside PNC Park is the Roberto Clemente Statue.
The number one player is none other than Roberto Clemente.
Not only was Clemente a 12-time All-Star, 1966 NL MVP, two-time world champion, four-time batting champ and 12-time NL Gold Glove award recipient, but he was a classy individual and one of the most iconic personalities in baseball history.
Clemente's career ended abruptly when he was killed in a plane crash while delivering supplies to Nicaragua after an earthquake hit there after the 1972 season. Clemente was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1973 after they waived the necessary waiting period and he was elected in with 92 percent of the vote.
Major League Baseball also gives out the Roberto Clemente award yearly to the player who "best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual's contribution to his team."
Below are the grades for Roberto Clemente.
Arm: 5—Clemente had an all-time best 256 assists from right field and was widely considered to have one of the best outfield arms of all time.
Glove: 4—He has a .973 fielding percentage for his career and 12 Gold Gloves go a long way here.
Contact: 5—Clemente had a .317 career batting average and 3,000 career hits. He also posted highs of 211 hits in 1964, and a .357 batting average in 1967.
Power: 4—He had modest numbers in home runs (240 for his career and season high of 29 in 1966). Power was probably his weakest tool, but it certainly wasn't a bad tool at all.
Speed: 4—Clemente had 166 career triples and 83 stolen bases with individual season highs of 14 and 12 in 1965 and 1963 respectively. Solid speed, but not barn burning. The speed contributed to a very good range in the outfield and a great ability to run the bases.
Total score: 22 out of 25