McCutchen running away with MVP

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Mid-day musings:

Andrew McCutchen is turning what once was a close MVP race into a runaway. It's hard to envision the scenario in which McCutchen will not easily win the award. He's doing everything an MVP has to do and particularly doing it down the stretch.

His August batting line: .384/.483/.535 -- 1.018

His Sept. batting line: .412/.516/.666 -- 1.183

He's hitting .366 with a 1.050 OPS since the All-Star Game, both the best in the National League.

Cliff Corcoran of recently listed Clayton Kershaw and Paul Goldschmidt as McCutchen's closest competitors. If that's the case, it's no-contest.

Not only has Goldschmidt's team, Arizona, collapsed, he has only two home runs -- his calling card -- since Aug. 20. As for Kershaw, he's a lock for the Cy Young, but the Dodgers have a higher winning percentage (70-50, .592) when he doesn't start than they do when he does (17-14. 548).

St.Louis catcher Yadier Molina has a .683 OPS this month, which will drag down his candidacy. Molina is a peerless catcher and given much credit for the pitching success of St. Louis. But the Cardinals staff has declined in the second half -- ERA from 3.39 to 3.60, WHIP from 1.20 to 1.35. Finally, if McCutchen were a chump defensively, Molina's brilliant catching skills would mean more. But McCutchen is a Gold Glove center fielder.

Unless the voters are addled, McCutchen should win the MVP easily.

What's with Clint Hurdle's infatuation with Bryan Morris? I've defended Hurdle's use of Morris in the recent past, but his continued insistence on using Morris regularly -- and more regularly than better pitchers -- truly is perplexing.

All the numbers point to Morris being in steep decline. With a normal roster, it might be understandable to keep going back to Morris. But with the post-Sept. 1 roster expansion, instead of having a seven-man bullpen, the Pirates have an 11-man bullpen. And many of the other 10 look to be better options than Morris.

Morris was a dependable guy in the first half of the season but not so in the second half. Here are his splits: ERA: 2.72/5.40; WHIP: 1.11/1.67; BAA: .193/.333. His September ERA in five appearances is 12.27.

What part of those second half and September numbers would begin to suggest Morris can be trusted in a game. He came into last night's game in the seventh with the Pirates trailing, 4-2. It was 5-2 by the time he was finished.

If Hurdle had no other options, his use of Morris, with the hope he'd regain his first-half form, might be understandable. But he has plenty of other relievers who have been more effective.

Hurdle's use, for example, of Jeanmar Gomez has been most peculiar. Gomez has been one of the most dependable pitchers on the team, both as a starter and a reliever. But once he was no longer needed as a starter, he was thrust into the long-relief role, which is basically the last man in the bullpen. A strange position for such a good pitcher.

Gomez, more recently used later in games, has had one bad outing in the second half -- four runs in 1/3 of an inning on Aug. 17 -- which pushed his post-ASG ERA to 3.65. But his other second-half numbers scream for more use: A 1.05 WHIP and a .199 BAA.

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First Published September 18, 2013 5:00 PM


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