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Why McCutchen should be the National League MVP

The SportsXchange

Getting Andrew McCutchen to talk about his chances of winning the National League Most Valuable Player award is no better than getting him to comment on the possibility of winning the NL batting title.

The Pirates center fielder is not going to go there.

"None of that really has any impact on me because we're trying to get to the playoffs," McCutchen said, mindful that the Pirates are contention this late in a season for the first time in 15 years.

"That means more to me than any personal goals. Sure, I'd like to win the MVP or the batting title, but it's the least of my priorities right now. If I play well enough to help the team win then the other stuff will take care of itself. It's not fair to my teammates to be thinking about it, and it only crosses my mind when (the media) asks about it."

While McCutchen may not want talk about his MVP chances, his statistics certainly tell an interesting tale.

He leads the NL with 93 runs scored, 172 hits and a .408 on-base percentage.

His .345 batting average is one point behind that of suspended San Francisco left fielder Melky Cabrera. McCutchen also ranks second with 280 total bases, 21 fewer than Milwaukee left fielder Ryan Braun.

McCutchen also scores well in the advanced metrics, including FanGraphs's Wins Above Replacement (WAR). McCutchen ranks fourth with a 6.2 mark, which means he has been worth that many more wins to the Pirates than if they were using a journeyman-type Class AAA player in center field.

Braun leads the league at 7.1 and is followed by New York Mets third baseman David Wright (6.5) and Atlanta Braves center fielder Michael Bourn (6.3).

Players from also-rans rarely get voted MVP. That hurts the chances of Braun and Wright. The Brewers are 6 1/2 games behind the St. Louis Cardinals in the race for the second NL wild card berth, and the Mets are nine games off the pace.

If 25 baseball writers -- those who vote on the award -- were asked who the most valuable Braves player is, it's doubtful a majority would choose Bourn. For whatever reason, his fine season has been overlooked.

The Pirates, meanwhile, have been one of baseball's biggest surprises. They are in position not only to earn their first postseason berth since 1992 but also their first winning season in 20 years.

The Pirates are 1 1/2 games behind the Cardinals, and their 72-64 record leaves them needing to win just 10 of their 26 final games to crack .500.

Nobody has played a bigger role in putting the Pirates in that position than McCutchen. His 6.2 WAR is almost twice as much as the next Pirates player, second baseman Neil Walker with a 3.3 mark.

Walker readily admits McCutchen is the Pirates' main cog.

"As Cutch goes, we go," Walker said. "I think everybody in this clubhouse would acknowledge that."

McCutchen has also won the respect of his peers around the NL in his fourth major league season. Los Angeles Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp, who finished second to Braun in last year's MVP balloting, gushes about McCutchen.

"He's one of the best players in the league," Kemp said last month when the Dodgers visited Pittsburgh. "The guy is great. He can do it all. He can hit for average, hit for power, steal bases and make great plays in center field. He's very deserving of being considered for the MVP."

Like a playoff berth and a winning season, the Pirates haven't had an MVP since 1992. Barry Bonds won the award for the second time in three years that season, then left for San Francisco as a free agent and won the MVP five more times in his career for Giants.

It might be too much to ask of McCutchen to win seven MVPs in his career. However, he is capable of winning the award multiple times, and he deserves to win No. 1 this season.
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