Andrew McCutchen is the face of the Pittsburgh Pirates. After four years in the league, the talented outfielder has earned his lofty status among Pirate fans with his all-around play.
Pirate fans have been treated to some great outfielders over the years including Clemente, Stargell and Bonds. With McCutchen getting ready to enter his fifth full season in black and gold, now is a good time to look at where he is as a player.
The best comparison for McCutchen to a previous player is Barry Bonds. Bonds is the closest in range of abilities to McCutchen. While using Clemente and Stargell as measuring sticks could also be done, it is not a good comparison.
Stargell was not a threat to steal bases and his defense in the outfield was average at best. Clemente was not a power hitter, and his home run totals were hurt by playing most of his career in the expanses of Forbes Field where the deepest part of the outfield was 457 feet.
Taking a close look at the Bonds and McCutchen after their first four seasons reveals two players who are very similar.
G AB R H HR RBI SB
Bonds - 566 2082 364 532 84 223 117
McCutchen - 577 2168 362 629 82 295 98
The amount of HR and R are almost identical. Bonds has a healthy lead in stolen bases, but Cutch has a huge lead in hits and RBI. Breaking down the numbers to a 162-game average shows how close these two really are in ability.
AB R H HR RBI SB
Bonds - 596 104 152 24 64 34
McCutchen - 609 102 177 23 83 28
Bonds and McCutchen were virtually tied in walks (283 to 284). Bonds did have an advantage in number of strikeouts (355 to 430).
Defensively, the case could be made that McCutchen has an advantage. With fielding percentages of .993, .987, .984 and .997 his first four years compared to .983, .986, .980 and .984 for Bonds, Cutch was higher in each season.
McCutchen accomplished this playing center field all four years. Bonds moved to left field during his second season. McCutchen captured his first Gold Glove this season where as Bonds did not get his first until season five of his career.
While Bonds is not a player adored by the Pirate faithful, he is a player who Pirate fans would agree is one of (if not the most) talented players to ever grace the organization. There is no doubting how great a player (pre-steroid) Bonds truly was.
The fact that McCutchen compares favorably, and in many cases better than Bonds at the same stage of their careers shows how truly special he is as a player. This is in no way saying McCutchen is a sure-fire Hall of Famer or better than Bonds. We know what Bonds went on to do, and McCutchen is still writing his script.
What the statistics show is that through his first four years, McCutchen is on a similar trajectory as Bonds. With the limited success the Pirates organization has had over the last two decades, it can be hard to fathom how great a player he has truly been.
The Pirates and their fans have truly struck gold with McCutchen. With some solid additions and a little bit of luck, McCutchen could be the player who makes Pirate fans forget the last 20 years of disappointments.