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Andrew McCutchen and his very weird 2021 season

In the final year of his three-year deal, McCutchen’s season has been a roller coaster.

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at Pittsburgh Pirates Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Following an 11-1 loss to the Reds in Cincinnati on the final day of May, Phillies left fielder Andrew McCutchen’s slash line was one you would expect from a 20-year-old rookie who had never played above AA before.

In 49 games (210 plate appearances), the veteran left fielder was hitting .201/.319/.362 with an OPS of .681. He had hit seven home runs in the season’s first two months and driven in 21, but a handful of defensive lapses and a 57/31 K/BB ratio had some wondering if the time had come for Cutch to transition into a full-time platoon role with Matt Joyce or Brad Miller.

Given those numbers, the point was difficult to argue. However, McCutchen quickly turned his season around once the calendar flipped to June.

On the first day of the month, the Phils destroyed the Reds 17-3. McCutchen hit two home runs and knocked in four runs, his 8th and 9th dingers of the season.

Since that game, McCutchen has been on fire, hitting .271/.389/.574, with an OPS of .964. He’s slugged 13 homers over the last two months and driven in 37, while at the same time drastically reducing his strikeouts (35/30 K/BB ratio in June & July) and playing better defense.

Since June 1, McCutchen’s 153 wRC+ ranks 18th in MLB (Freddie Freeman’s is 152 by comparison), his .964 OPS is 12th, .574 slugging percentage is 14th, .389 on-base percentage is 16th, 13 bombs are tied for 14th and is 15th among MLB outfielders in fWAR (1.4).

Perhaps the most impressive number is that BB-K ratio mentioned above, 3rd-best in baseball since June 1, at 0.86. His strikeout in the first two months? 27.1%. Over the last two months? 18.4%.

When you look at his overall numbers, his season has been very weird, indeed. His .234 batting average is obviously low, tied for 119th out of 139 qualified MLB players. However, his OBP is tied for 48th, thanks to an always-high walk rate. Prior to hitting in the injured list this week with a bum knee, he was very close to being on pace for his first 30-homer season since 2012, the only season in his star-studded career in which he broached that number (31). As it is, he’s second on the team in home runs (behind Rhys Hoskins’ 23), his 55 runs scored are three fewer than the team leaders (Hoskins & Bryce Harper’s 58), and his 58 RBIs trail only Hoskins’ 63.

One wouldn’t have thought given the way the season began that by August 3 McCutchen would be giving the Phillies more value than they could have expected in the final year of his deal.

Of course, now he’s injured and a depleted Phillies roster must fill the void.

The Phils have already used 12 outfielders this season, from Harper (3.4 fWAR) to Joyce (-0.5 fWAR). Among those currently available, Travis Jankowski appears to be the player most likely to see playing time, as was the case Monday night in the Phils’ series opener against the Nationals. He and Odubel Herrera both carry an fWAR of 0.5 into Tuesday night’s game, but Brad Miller (.224/.315/.408, 10 HRs) will have to carry the freight. All are left-handed. Luke Williams (.260/.321/.351 in 84 PAs) is currently the only right-handed hitting outfielder on the 26-man roster, so it’s likely get a few starts here and there against left-handers until McCutchen comes back.

Given his red-hot summer, the Phillies are hoping that delay won’t be too long.