July 8, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen (22) hits his second home run of the day against the San Francisco Giants during the seventh inning at PNC Park. The Pittsburgh Pirates won 13-2. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE
This will be the billionth article on the internet about Mike Trout. And why shouldn't there be a billion? He's 20 years old. He is hitting .341/.397/.562 with 12 home runs and 26 stolen bases (3 CS). And he's been spectacular with the glove. Mike Trouts don't grow on trees, and there aren't plenty of fish like this (see what I did there?) in the sea. In fact, I've already written about the historical implications of his performance this season. With each passing day, he's making a bigger mark in the history books. And it's something to marvel at.
Because of his age, and the fact that he's a generational talent, Trout has naturally been paired with Harper -- another outfielder that's accomplishing extraordinary feats given his age; another superstar to dream on. Having two amazingly talented and young hitters in the majors at the same time like this is something special.
But, at the risk of belittling Bryce Harper's performance, he hasn't been on par with Trout. Which is fine. Bryce Harper is a freakin' 19-year-old established major-leaguer with a 127 wRC+. He's incredible. But he hasn't been performing like Mike Trout.
Somebody else has, and his name is Andrew McCutchen. Andrew McCutchen is 25 years old. In baseball terms, there's a world of difference between a 25-year-old and a 20-year-old (or in Harper's case, a 19-year-old). But McCutchen has been mashing like crazy. He's currently hitting .362/.414/.625 with 18 homers; and for good measure, he's stolen 14 bases (4 CS).
Mike Trout has a 172 wRC+. Andrew McCutchen has a 180 wRC+.
I can't help but think that if it weren't for the existence of Mike Trout and Bryce Harper, we'd all be salivating a little bit more over the type of season McCutchen is having. As well we should. He's of legal drinking age, but he still has yet to reach that age (27) when players typically enter their prime. He's still young in baseball terms.
So what we have here are two centerfielders, one in each league, batting above .340, getting on base roughly 40% of the time, and slugging over .550; two centerfielders -- one 20 years old, and one 25 years old -- with wRC+s of 172 and 180, respectively.
Anyway, there are two things I want to make clear in this article.
The first is that McCutchen has been so tremendous with the bat this season that he's on pace to put himself in company with the likes of Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays. Since 1961, there have been two centerfielders to post a wRC+ of 180 or higher in a single season. Willie Mays did it in 1965 (187 wRC+). And Mickey Mantle did it in 1961 (199 wRC+). That's it.
While I seriously doubt McCutchen will keep up the scorching pace he's maintained thus far, I think it's very likely that he ends up with one of the top 25 offensive seasons by a centerfielder, or perhaps even top ten. That's pretty remarkable.
The second is that McCutchen and Trout are on pace for two of the three best offensive performances by centerfielders younger than 26. Now, I'd be remiss if I didn't first point out that this is arbitrary -- but I still think it's worth noting. For reference, here's the leaderboard (qualified centerfielders, age 14 to 25, 1961 to 2012, sorted by wRC+). Trout currently ranks third. McCutchen ranks first. What we have here are two young centerfielders hitting extremely well during the same year.
I'm sure McCutchen has generated a lot of hype this season. I just haven't seen a lot of it, at least in proportion to the amount of hype he should be generating. This is a 25-year-old centerfielder slugging .625 at the all-star break. I don't think it's as amazing as Harper and Trout's respective performances, in context; but it's still pretty damn amazing.