Andrew McCutchen’s career on-base percentage is higher than Derek Jeter’s.
That stat alone won’t help McCutchen join the Hall of Fame-bound Jeter in Cooperstown, but the player called "Cutch'' considers it a worthy measure of his career since 2013. That’s when the former Pirates star was voted the National League’s Most Valuable Player. McCutchen is likely to be in the Yankees' starting lineup Wednesday night in the American League wild-card game against the A’s.
McCutchen will turn 32 on Oct. 10, and some might conclude he’s on the downside of his career. A year before his MVP season, he hit a career-high .327 with 31 home runs, 96 RBIs, a .400 on-base percentage and a .553 slugging percentage. The five-time All-Star had slash lines of .317/.404/.508 in 2013, .314/.410/.542 in 2014 and .292/.401/.488 in 2015.
Since those years, his batting average has been well under .300, dropping him to .287 for his career. McCutchen is hitting .253 with five home runs for the Yankees, but he says his on-base percentage means he is doing his job. In 25 games with his new team, he has 22 walks in 114 plate appearances and an OBP of .421.
His career OBP is .378. Jeter’s was .377.
“I’m not a guy that's gonna hit .330 every year,’’ McCutchen said recently. “For me, there’s adjustments that’s happened. You have to learn how to adjust with the game. That's something that I've been trying to learn over the past couple of years. Of course, my average isn't there, but at the end of the day, I'm still a guy that can get on base. I’ve been here for a month and look how many times I’ve walked.’’
McCutchen has heard people say he's not the same player. “I’m going to get on base,’’ he said. “Is that telling me I’m still the same guy? Do [pitchers] still see me as the same guy? I think so. I don't think anybody sees me differently because if that was the case, I’d get more fastballs and wouldn't walk as much.
"That’s just kind of the way I look at it. I look at myself as the same person, regardless of what the numbers say. You can’t be defined by what you read on a sheet of paper. Because you can bring a lot more to the table then that, and that's kind of the way I look at it.’’
The Yankees initially acquired McCutchen from the Giants on Aug. 31 to play rightfield for then-injured Aaron Judge. McCutchen's ability to get on base prompted the Yankees to put him in leftfield instead of Brett Gardner, the longest-tenured Yankee.
The Yankees have a decision to make this offseason. Gardner, 35, has a club option at $12.5 million. Might that money be better spent on constructing a deal for free agent McCutchen?
McCutchen would not speculate on his future but did say, “New York’s awesome, this place is great. For the time being, I've really enjoyed myself here.’’