When the Pirates signed Andrew McCutchen to a six year $51.5m contract this off-season there were very few who thought it was anything other than a bargaining. The young centrefielder may be less than 10% of the way through that deal, but he’s already showing that the Pirates may have one of the most team-friendly deals in baseball on their hands. Elected to the All-Star team after a .362/.414/.625 first half which includes 18 home runs and 14 stolen bases, McCutchen is placing himself among the favourites for MVP consideration come the end of the year.
With their best player front and centre, the Pirates find themselves atop the NL Central at the break with a 48-37 record which must be a surprise to all but the most wildly optimistic Bucs fans. Outside of some solid production at second base from Neil Walker and a few sudden displays of power hitting from Pedro Alvarez, McCutchen has been the only member of the lineup that has been pulling his weight. On the pitching side, James McDonald has had a huge breakout year while getting back into the NL seems to have done wonders for AJ Burnett’s pitching. The chart below shows how the team’s production breaks down in terms of fWAR accumulated up to the All-Star break.
While it’s generally recognised that adding up WAR values isn’t a particularly useful exercise, what this does do is give an idea of just how valuable McCutchen has been to the Pirates this year: his 4.5 fWAR is almost a quarter of the total fWAR produced by Pirates players. His share of the team’s total production is actually even more impressive than the chart above allows for. For clarity I’ve not included players who have 0.0 or less fWAR to this point. Fangrpahs adjudges that the poor performances of Jose Tabata, Clint Barmes and others come to a total of -3.0 fWAR. Once you account for the ‘negative’ production as well, McCutchen’s performance looks even more impressive. It’s important to recognise that any iteration of WAR has it’s limitations, but it does provide a reasonable snapshot of a player’s value. However you prefer to slice it, McCutchen has been near priceless to the overachieving Pirates this year.