McCutchen: I was right then (and now)

Andrew McCutchen is a Yankee.  In anticipation of all the “what do you think?” questions I’ll gladly accept today, here’s what I think:

Ironically, I wrote about McCutchen in January when he was acquired by San Francisco, you can read the detailed analysis HERE.  Short version:

San Francisco trading for him was a bad move.  They gave up a lot for him, and the problem was that somewhere around 2015, he stopped hitting the ball hard.  Nothing changed about his chase rate, contact rate, batting average on balls in play, spray charts – he just didn’t hit the ball as hard as he used to.  This resulted in pitchers being more aggressive against him, resulting in fewer walks and fewer HR due to the power drop. (This is when I wonder if a good scout noticed something numbers can’t see, such as a swing change of slower bat speed…?)

So far in 2018, not much has changed.  The power has dropped even further:  SLG is down to .415 this season from .486 in ’17, his HR to fly ball percentage is down 5% and his wRC+ down to 115 from 122.  Oh, he also strikes out 5% more often and he’s been a minus base runner and defender this season too.

But…his line drive percentage is up this season (again…swing change…?) and his chase rate is down.

So despite the decline, the Yankees are getting a right fielder who takes a lot of pitches and hits the ball on a line if not over the wall with a 115 wRC+.  That is to say, they’re getting a better than average offensive player and a massive upgrade over Shane Robinson.

So to the question of “What do you think?” the answer, as always is “It depends, what did they give up?”

Answer: They gave up nothing.  This is a very good move for the Yankees.

It’s highly unlikely that Abiatal Avelino will ever do anything of substance in the big leagues.  From 2012 through 2017 he did nothing of note playing between rookie leagues and AAA.  In the first half of this season, he played very well in AA Trenton:  211 plate appearances with a .392 OBP, .553 SLG line.

Impressive.  That got him a call up to AAA, where he quickly reverted to below average OBP and SLG again.  A quick look at his batting average on balls in play this season tells a cool story:  It was .375 in AA then dropped to .308 in AAA

He was getting lucky and his luck ran out.

So the answer is this is a great move for the Yankees.  In addition to the offensive upgrade over the current roster, there’s a trickle down effect – Neil Walker goes back to the infield and Ronald Torreyes goes back to AAA where he’ll continue his pattern of forgetting to cover bases.

Well played, Mr. Cashman.

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