As one walks across the Roberto Clemente Bridge from downtown Pittsburgh to PNC Park, one is greeted on the left by a large bronze statue of the greatest modern day Pittsburgh Pirate, "The Great One," Roberto Clemente, striking an ever so lithe and athletic pose.
Proceed another 100 paces on Federal Street and one then encounters the large imposing statue of Willie Stargell in a pose that emanates the power of Stargell's intimidating and forceful swing.
For nearly a decade, these two Pirate legends played together in Forbes Field and later Three Rivers Stadium, leading the Pirates to playoff contention on a seemingly annual basis.
Are opposing pitchers today facing a modern Pirates' version of Clemente and Stargell in Andrew McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez? At this point in their careers and ages, both McCutchen and Alvarez compare favorably statistically to Clemente and Stargell, respectively.
As the 2012 regular season ended, McCutchen was 26 years old, turning 27 on Oct. 10 with his fifth season completed in the major leagues. At 26, Clemente had finished his sixth full season, and we begin the comparison there.
Clemente had played in 771 games and McCutchen in 734. The Great One had 861 hits in those games, and McCutchen has 814. Statistically, that breaks down to 1.12 hits per game for Clemente and 1.11 hits per game for McCutchen.
Both had two seasons to that point in which they hit over .300, and McCutchen has played one less season. McCutchen's career batting average is .296 and at that time Clemente's was .288.
Even more telling is that despite having played in 47 fewer games, McCutchen hit 61 more home runs (103 to 42), had 48 more runs batted in (379 to 331) and stole 103 more bases (105 to 22).
Clemente won his only league MVP award in his 12th season, and McCutchen has matched that in this only his fifth season. In addition, Clemente made only one All-Star game in his first six seasons and McCutchen has been chosen to three All-Star games. Defensively, Clemente hadn't won any of his 12 Gold Gloves yet, and McCutchen already has one.
Comparing Alvarez to Stargell at age 26 in terms of power and home run production is also noteworthy. At that age, Stargell had completed his fourth full season in the major leagues, Alvarez has only had two seasons in which he played more than 100 games. Despite that, Alvarez has hit 30 or more home runs in each of his two full seasons, while Stargell only did it once in his first four seasons.
As for home run titles, Alvarez tied for a share of the National League home run title this past season. Stargell led the National League in home runs twice in his entire career, the first time occurring not until his ninth full season in the majors.
In his first 519 games, Stargell hit 92 home runs; Alvarez has hit 86 in 470 games. That breaks down to Stargell hitting a home run every 5.64 games, and Alvarez hitting one every 5.47 games. In comparing at-bats-to-home run ratios, Stargell hit a home run every 19.28 at-bats, while Alvarez hit one every 19.36.
In areas one would expect Alvarez to improve, despite playing 49 fewer games, Alvarez has stuck out 142 more times than Stargell (565 to 423), hit for a lower batting average (.235 to .279) and driven in 70 less runs (268 to 338).
Neither McCutchen nor Alvarez should feel pressured to be the next Clemente or Stargell the way Bobby Murcer felt in being called, "the next Mickey Mantle." There could only be one Mantle, as there could only be one Clemente or Stargell.
With Honus Wagner's statue outside the home plate entrance of PNC Park and Bill Mazeroski's statue outside the right field entrance, that doesn't leave many spacious locations should—after long Pirate careers—McCutchen and Alvarez warrant statues of their own. Pirate fans no doubt hope that one day that will be a problem Pirate management has to face.
Stats via baseball-reference.com.