Even though the second half of the season was not kind to the Pittsburgh Pirates, their fans can take some comfort in seeing superstar center fielder Andrew McCutchen end the 2012 Major League Baseball season as the National League leader in hits with 194.
McCutchen has led the senior circuit virtually all season, though Ryan Braun (191), Marco Scutaro (190) and Martin Prado (186) were hot on his heels up until the final day of the regular season.
In addition to leading the National League in hits, McCutchen finally had the big breakout season that has been predicted for him since he was the Pirates' top prospect coming into 2009. His evolution from a great defensive player with good offensive skills into a great all-around player has vaulted him into the MVP discussion.
Unfortunately for McCutchen, he is probably going to be a victim of circumstance. At various points in the second half, the Pirates were 16 games over .500 and in the thick of the National League Central race.
After beating Arizona on August 6 to improve to 62-46, the Pirates bottomed out, and on the final weekend of the season, they clinched their 20th straight losing season.
McCutchen went down right along with the team, hitting .252 in August with just two home runs. He did bounce back in September, though, with a .262 average, seven home runs and 28 hits in 107 at-bats.
Since the Pirates fell out of contention, voters aren't likely to give McCutchen as much attention as he deserves.
At least McCutchen can take some solace in seeing his name atop the National League hits leaders list, which includes current stars like Ryan Braun, Starlin Castro and Carlos Gonzalez, as well as Hall of Famers like Tony Gwynn and Hank Aaron.
Here is a final look at the 2012 National League leaders in hits:
|2012 NATIONAL LEAGUE HITS LEADERS|
|1. Andrew McCutchen, Pirates: 194|
|2. Ryan Braun, Brewers: 191|
|3. Marco Scutaro, Rockies/Giants: 190|
|4. Martin Prado, Braves: 186|
|T-5. Jose Reyes, Mets: 184|
|T-5. Aaron Hill, Diamondbacks: 184|
|7. Starlin Castro, Cubs: 183|
|T-8. David Wright, Mets: 178|
|T-8. Buster Posey, Giants: 178|
|10. Matt Holliday, Cardinals: 177|