Who was the most valuable player for the Pirates during the 2010 season? To me, there are five top candidates, and I'll put them in order from the fifth best candidate down to my number one choice:
5. Jose Tabata - He has been a very consistent hitter in the leadoff and 2 spots. He has a .304 batting average and .758 OPS before this weekend's games. Just as importantly, he was arguably the only solid defender to receive the majority of playing time this season (if you believe the numbers).
4. Pedro Alvarez - Pedro stumbled out of the gate, with a .411 OPS in June, but he has played much better of late, getting the OPS up to .936 in September and October to this point. Overall, he's got a .259 average, .796 OPS, 16 home runs, and 64 RBIs. Defensively, he's been bad, though, thus the lower ranking.
3. Joel Hanrahan - His fastball and slider racked up the fourth-most strikeouts of any reliever in the majors, only trailing Carlos Marmol, Tyler Clippard, and Billy Wagner. Marmol and Clippard also racked up many more walks, which indicates how dominant Hanrahan has been. Overall, he has a 3.67 ERA with 98 strikeouts and 25 walks. His ERA is skewed by two big innings out of 72 appearances, including the 20-0 game that was lost well before he entered it.
2. Neil Walker - We've followed him for years as a prospect. This season, he finally broke out to the tune of a .300 average and .820 OPS with 12 home runs and 66 runs driven in. Given another new position defensively (after being a catcher and third baseman before), he struggled a lot in the beginning. By the end of the season, though, he was probably the best defender of the infield starters.
And ... the Pirates MVP this year is ...
1. Andrew McCutchen. The now two-time Adam Reynolds MVP followed up a tremendous rookie season by avoiding a sophomore slump, and hitting for a .286 average with an .818 OPS, 16 home runs, 94 runs scored, 55 RBI, and 33 stolen bases.
He's taken heat from the fanbase in several areas: batting average, aggressiveness on the basepaths, big slump in the middle of the year, not bunting enough, success in RBI opportunities, performance in the #3 spot in the lineup, and raw defensive routes. To me, the only real concern is the last point, and he needs to tighten up his defense to be a superstar. Despite the offensive criticism, he's in the top six among centerfielders in OPS, and top four in weighted On-Base average (wOBA)
The main reason I'd pick Cutch over Walker is that he played the whole season, including little rest after an injured shoulder, and still put up the huge production. Despite getting banged up a lot, he hustled, didn't complain, and played in at least 152 games. If he's healthy, I'd imagine he's capable of even bigger numbers. McCutchen is my MVP for this year, and is the favorite for the next five years as well. He's the biggest representation of hope for long-suffering Pirates fans.