There is room for argument that March 4th, 2012 was the best day to be a Pittsburgh Pirates fan since October 13th, 1992. That amazing night the Pirates beat the Atlanta Braves 13-4 to tie the series at 3 games all for the right to go to the World Series. The Pirates, lead that night by a 2nd inning home run by Barry Bonds had all the momentum until the next night in the bottom of the 9th inning. From October 14th, 1992 until the present day the Pittsburgh Pirates Baseball Club have been a losing franchise. I stand on my Emotional soap box and say regardless of record in this coming season, the Pirates of the last 19 years are no more.
The very impressive 6 year, $51.5 Million contract the Pirates extended their young superstar Andrew McCutchen changes everything for the franchise going forward. Rob Biertempfel reports on twitter the $ amount for the 7th year option at $14.75 Million, which would seem an obvious buy given McCutchen’s pedigree and advancement in his short time in the majors.
#Pirates pay McCutchen 2012: $500k, 13:$4.5m, 14: $7.25m, 15: $10m, 16: $13m, 17: $14m. Option$14.75 or $1m buyout
— Rob Biertempfel (@BiertempfelTrib) March 5, 2012
So, we should celebrate here in Pittsburgh today and for the next 7 years. The Pirates have one of the most affable young superstars in baseball and they have him at a team friendly deal that Neal Huntington and Frank Coonelly should be applauded for finalizing in such a quiet and quick manor.
McCutchen passes every test modern baseball has for a young player, SABRmetrically, personality, and for us season ticket holders, the all important eye ball test. His fielding UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) improved dramatically last year. While a helpful tool, UZR is widely debated due to year to year fluctuation. (Ex. Michael Bourn 2010 +20.6, 2011 -6.2). I think most of us in Pittsburgh know McCutchen’s only fielding limit is his arm. He is strong, but he will fly a cut off man from time to time and be off target. McCutchen’s OBP was a stellar .364 due to a great walk rate and despite an unlucky .291 BABIP (Batting Average of Ball in Play). A comparable outfielder in home runs, plate appearances, and WAR (Wins above Replacement) last year was Alex Gordon. He had a .358 BABIP. There are always abnormalities in these stats, but I bet this .291 figure will be McCutchen’s lowest for the foreseeable future. While I don’t think anyone can hope he is as lucky as Gordon or Matt Kemp (.380 BABIP) last year, I think we can routinely expect him to be around .320. This coupled with his an acceptable strikeout rate, I believe his stat lines in the next few years of service should be in the .280/.380/.480 with 25 home runs and 30 steals. And while last year McCutchen was a top 20 WAR player in all of baseball according to Fangraphs.com this advance stat line would secure that and probably consistently place him in the top 15 in all of baseball. And, while all of these stats are very important to baseball nerds like myself the most important thing that Andrew bring to the PNC ball park is what you can see when he is flying around the base paths after a hit to the left-center field gap, hair flowing after his helmet pops off, sliding easily into 3rd for what Greg Brown may call a trip-trip-triple. He stands up, smiles, wipes himself off, and you can tell he is having fun out there. That is something that had been alien to many a Pirates fan over the last 19 years. Well, no longer, for we have Area 51.5 for the next 6 years and beyond.