All season we have seen Andrew McCutchen hitting for more power, but his average has been lacking, spending most of the early season down around .240, well below his avg of .286 each of the last two seasons. He currently has a 10 game hitting streak going, during which he has been killing the ball with 5 of those 10 being multi-hit games raising his average 28 points to.......284
During this 10 game span, 6 of his 18 hits have also gone for extra bases and he has driven in 11 runs (just over 1 per game), sported a 4:6 BB:K rate and raised his OPS 56 points. 4 of the 5 multi-hit games came in the first 4, but all of the walks came in the next five, so it appears he is also recognizing when he is not getting anything to hit and still getting on base, which is also encouraging.
It is a small sample size to focus on in particular, but the fact that it is the most recent sample gives it added significance, especially since after a slow start contact-wise, his performance has gradually increased since a low point of .207 on April 29. After all of the back and forth on whether he should lead off or hit number 3 on a team that has had trouble finding anyone besides Neil Walker to consistently drive guys in when they get on base, it appears that Cutch my finally be blossoming into the player we hoped who can hit for power and average. His SB rate is slightly down from last year, but ahead of his rookie season. so without crunching the exact numbers I believe he is on pace to split the difference between his first two seasons and steal 25-30.
This season's breakout is actually something that started last year around the all star break. In 20 fewer games, he hit the same amount of homeruns (8) and 3 more doubles than the first half, though he admittedly hit 3 fewer triples. The other big change, besides the decrease in steals and attempts, is the BB:K ratio which improved from 2:3 to 1:1 in the second half
If he can get the average above .286 and continue the pace he has been on, he will increase every element of his triple slash again (he almost did this last year but hit for exactly the same average). This would be great obviously, because it helps the team, but also answer the "Has Cutch peaked" questions that some people were throwing out early in the season. It doesn't matter if people ask questions, but we want to see signs that elements of his game are still improving without sacraficing in others. If he is a 25-25 guy in the 3 hole instead of a 15-30 guy leading off, I'll take make that trade every time.
Jose Tabata has also gradually improved his avg over the same span. The power has still not significantly increased, but making it clear which of them should be leading off. This improved avg is a good sign as he has been laying off the low-outside curve ball that victimized him all last year (I will try to dig up the great fangraphs article about this, but if you have the link please post in comments). Hopefully it is starting to materialize in the form of more hits falling, but it already has in the form of more walks (his 30 to date have already surpassed last seasons 28). While his slugging % is slightly down from last year, his OBP percentage is actually up 17 points, despite his batting avg being 31 points lower. If the avg continues to rise back to where it was last year, without lowering his walk rate, he will be a bonafied on-base machine. Sure we'd like everyone to be a 5 tool stud, but if he gives us 290/370/400 with 30+ SB that puts him in the argument for one of the best leadoff men in baseball.
Dont look now (ok look) but this is half of the 1-4 lineup we were all drooling over all winter. Neil has slowed down of late, but he was the #2 man and was red hot early in the season. Hopefully he can make some adjustments and get going again. Pedro obviously hasn't been the HR smashing cleanup man we all hoped so far, though I am not ready to write him off. He looked brutal in those 125 AB's, but he's still so young. He was actually improving before he was injured (albeit from terrible to bad but still, its improvement). Matt LaPorta had similar struggles last year as a former power hitting college bat, but has shown improvement, though he never struck out at such an alarming rate. I'm hoping for more than LaPorta's current production from Pedro. Whether, or not that ever happens, it appears that we have two of the four players in our nucleus really stepping up and excelling in their roles.
UPDATE: It was Rotohardball, not Fangraphs. Check out this article that shows how Tabata has learned to completely lay off the pitch that was his weakness last year