Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Cutch Is Golden

Andrew McCutchen had a breakout year in 2012. He hit .327 with 31 home runs, 107 runs, 96 RBIs and 20 stolen bases while playing in 157 games for the Bucs. Cutch was picked as a NL All-Star for the second straight season, this time as a player's choice, and was part of the State Farm Home Run Derby during the KC festivities.

You can add a Gold Glove to his 2012 trophy case. And if he doesn't have a hardware cabinet, no problem: USA Today reported that Cutch even got a $25,000 bonus for the award, so he can afford to go out and get one.

The Gold Glove Awards are selected by the managers and coaches, who can't vote for their own players. Cutch outpolled the other two finalists, Cincinnati's Drew Stubbs and Atlanta's two-time Gold Glove winner Michael Bourn (Houston 2009-10), to take the honor. Cutch led all NL center fielders with a .997 fielding percentage, charged with just one error in 371 chances, and finished the season with a 135-game streak without a boot.

Roberto Clemente won a MLB record 12 Gold Gloves and Andy Van Slyke won five, while Bill Virdon and Nate McLouth each earned one. Other Pirate outfielders to be voted a Golden Glove were Dave Parker and Barry Bonds, with three each. Add Cutch to the Golden Bucco club.

Of course, we know that Golden Gloves are predicated on golden bats; hence Nate the Great's gold mitt in 2008 and Clint Barme's non-consideration this season. Chase Headley won the award ahead of David Wright in the NL and Adam Jones won the vote over human highlight reel Mike Trout in the AL this year to bolster that thought.

Michael Bourn blew the doors off Cutch defensively in most stat-head categories: his UZR was 22.4 to Cutch's -6.9. Bourn made 113 plays out of the centerfield zone to McCutch's 78, and both had 3 assists. Cutch did beat him in RZR, which measures balls hit into the zone that were converted into outs; Cutch turned .933 of those into sit-downs, while Bourn wrapped his mitt around .913 of balls in his area.

We'll defend Cutch from the Sabremetric slap down a little. We've watched him enough to know he still freezes sometimes on his initial jump and hitting the cut-off man is a concept that hasn't quite sunk in yet. But he's improved leaps and bounds since his 2009 debut.

Cutch has run down more than his fair share of gappers and slid under quite a few CF lobs. And since he's been here, his zone rating has been crimped by the Bucs double-CF defense, using center field talent in left to better cover PNC's Notch acreage, so that UZR is artificially low to us.

All in all, we consider Cutch an above average fielder with plus speed who plays better than the defensive metrics show, but not elite with the leather or his arm. Heck, he may well pass the torch to Starling Marte one day. But hey, 31 dingers and 194 hits make that glove look a little bigger, at least in the eyes of the guys watching plenty of dinks and drives disappear into his web.

And he may not be quite done. Cutch is in the final five for the upcoming NL-MVP award. His (and the club's) late fade probably cost him that shiny bit of metal, but we'll see November 15th.

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