Welcome to another installment of Mortal Kombat, where we take two evenly matched players and have them square off against each other to find out who the better man is. This week we feature two evenly matched 5 tool outfielders with impressive resumes. If this was 2012 the answer would have been Carlos Gonzalez without any question, but McCutchen has since forced his way into the conversation and is demanding recognition.
My initial solution a few weeks ago when we featured Pedroia and Kipnis was to throw both parties into the arena with their bats and let them bludgeon each other to death. After double checking with our attorney’s I’ve been told this is indeed illegal in the United States and I have no intention of being a prison wife to a 350 pound guy named Bubba. I’m dedicated to fantasy baseball but my hypocrisy only goes so far so you’ll just have to use your imagination again.
And now here’s Michael Buffer to introduce the opponents
In the gold Corner, he has been a major league player for 5 years. He was Baseball Ameica’s major league rookie of the year and is the owner of a 2 gold gloves and silver slugger award, standing 5’10” and weighing in at 175 pounds, representing the Pittsburgh Pirates…..Andrewwww McCuuuuutchen.
And in the purple corner, he has been a major league player for 6 years. He owns 3 gold gloves and 1 silver slugger award, standing 6’1’’ and weighing in at 205 pounds, representing the Colorado Rockies……………Caaarrlos GooonZaaaaaalas.
Gonzalez holds a career batting average of .300. He has batted higher than .300 in three of the past four seasons, and the one year he came short it was .295 (2011). He’s better against righties (.309) than lefties (.281), but the difference isn’t enough for owners to worry about. His home and away splits are a little wider as his home BA is .328 while his road average drops to .269; this has not changed much over the years either. This can be a little frustrating in H2H leagues but in roto and points leagues the bottom line is all that matters.
McCutchen is a career .296 hitter. He batted .286 his first two years, that dipped down to .259 in 2011 and was .317 or higher these past two seasons. There are no discernible splits when it comes to home and road games. While McCutchen’s career road BA is .283 it has been .298 or higher the past two years. The same holds true for his lefty/righty splits. His career BA verse right-handed pitchers in .284, but he has batted .302 & .309 against them the past two years. His numbers against lefties has even improved over his .336 career mark as McCutchen has averaged .390 against them for the past two years.
They are both .300 hitters, but the consistency in the splits is the difference maker here.
Advantage – McCutchen
McCutchen has averaged 92 runs per year. His run totals for the past 5 years are 97, 107, 87, 94 and 74. If you take out his rookie season his lowest total in the past 4 years is 87. He has a walk percentage of 11 and the OBP has been .400+ the past two years. Combine those two things with his batting average and add in power hitter Pedro Alvarez hitting behind him and it’s safe to say that 87 runs would be McCutchen’s floor.
Gonzalez has averaged 91 runs a year for the past 4 years. His run totals for the past 4 years are 111, 92, 89 and 74. Cargo’s walk percentage stands at 9.4 and the OBP is .357. He also has power hitters Troy Tulowitzki and Wilin Rosario hitting behind him, but despite all these factors the run totals are headed in the wrong direction.
They both average the same amount of runs, but Gonzalez’s totals are declining.
Advantage – McCutchen
McCutchens home run totals from 2011 to 2013 are 23, 31 and 21. That comes out to 25 per season for the past 3 years. Cargo’s home run totals for the same years are 26, 22 and 26. That comes out to 24.5 per season and puts us in a tie, so we’ll check out some of the underlying numbers.
First I looked at their ISO (Isolated Power is a measure of a hitter’s raw power, in terms of extra bases per AB). McCutchen’s career ISO is .193 and this year’s .190 is right in line with that. Gonzalez has a career ISO of .230 and that was .289 this year. Cargo has the advantage here even if this year’s numbers inflated his career total, but I’m not going to hand this to him based upon ISO. Looking at their fly ball percentages, McCutchen’s career FB% is 37.4 while Gonzalez’s is 34.9%. Both numbers are pretty close but McCutchen’s home run to fly ball ratio sits at 12.3 while Gonzalez has an 18.7%. McCutchen may hit a few more fly balls but more of Cargo’s are clearing the wall.
Again Gonzalez has the advantage but to quash any disputes I checked their fly ball distances over the years. McCutchen’s average fly ball distances for the past 3 years are 296.74 (2013 – ranked 27th), 304.72 (2012 – ranked 9th) and 288.79 (2011 – ranked 62nd). Gonzalez’s average fly ball distance the past 3 years are 313.76 (2013 – ranked 1st), 311.13 (2012 – 2nd) and 300.17 (2011 – ranked 15th). On average that’s an extra 12 feet which is slightly more that the height of an average outfield wall.
While their totals are even, the numbers say Gonzalez is better than advertised.
Advantage – Gonzalez
Runs Batted In
McCutchen has averaged 90 RBIs a year for three years now (89, 96, and 84). He has had lower totals, but that was when he was a leadoff man. Gonzalez has averaged 82 RBI’s over the past three years (92, 85, and 70). He had 117 in 2010 so he is capable of putting up big numbers, but things have gone downhill since then.
Just like with Runs scored, declining totals have done Gonzalez in.
Advantage – McCutchen
McCutchen has stolen 20+ bases in each year of his career going back to 2006. His lowest total was 17 and that was his first year in the minors. He has surpassed 30 once in the majors, once in the minors and once combined (2009). He used to bat leadoff but moving to the third spot in the order hasn’t affected his stolen bases or opportunities.
Gonzalez has had 5 seasons of 20+ stolen bases. He showed some speed in the minors, but for whatever reason didn’t have the success he has had in the majors. Cargo is also very good at what he does with a success rate over 80%. Just like McCutchen, Gonzalez’s transition from leadoff to third didn’t affect his stolen base totals.
Gonzalez has a higher success rate, but McCutchen receives more opportunities.
Advantage – None
Looking at the 5 basic scoring categories, the winner is obvious.
WINNER – McCutchen
Now many of you expected McCutchen to win and while the battle may be over, the war is not. There is one more intangible that wasn’t mentioned during this entire battle, and that is health. McCutchen has had good fortunes when it comes to health; unfortunately Gonzalez hasn’t been so lucky. Take a look at the chart below and observe the number of games played for each player during the last four years.
2010 was fairly even, but there is a noticeable difference between the last three years. In 2011 McCutchen played in 31 more games, 22 more games in 2012 and 47 additional games in 2013. An extra months worth of stats can make a world of difference. With an extra 30 days Cargo could steal 4 more bases to give him an edge over McCutchen in stolen bases. He could have accumulated another 10 to 15 runs or RBIs and either tied or surpassed McCutchen in either category. A healthy Gonzalez could be the better player; problem is Gonzalez hasn’t played close to a full year since 2010, but that doesn’t mean he can’t.
Looking at the numbers McCutchen is the best choice, but Gonzalez playing in only 83% of games is close behind. That kind of production should not be ignored and if Troy Tolowitzki is still getting drafted at the end of round one/beginning of round 2, then so should Cargo. McCutchen is the winner here, but if you get a chance to grab the runner-up…..Take It.
Do you have a few players that you would like to see featured here? Just leave your suggestions in the comments section below or send them to me on twitter @TheJimFinch.