The year is 1992. It is the last season the Pittsburgh Pirates made it to the postseason. Wait, its actually the last time the franchise even had a winning record at season's end. The face of the team is a slim, chiseled 190-pound outfielder named Barry Bonds who claimed his second MVP trophy in three years. He was the best all-around talent in the game.
Fast forward to 2013. Picture another 190-pound Pirates outfielder who seems to be running stride-for-stride numbers wise with the aforementioned 14x all-star Bonds. The only difference is he has an infectious personality and is a team leader that everyone enjoys being around. The new face of the Pittsburgh Pirates is Mr. Andrew McCutchen, an odds on favorite to take home his first MVP award in only his fifth season.
Now, some may say its a bit premature to compare McCutchen to an all-time legend, however the numbers suggest that we are right on time. In looking at the statistics of the two through their first five seasons the players are eerily similar.
G AB R H HR RBI SB
Bonds - 717 2601 468 688 117 337 169
McCutchen - 734 2751 459 814 103 379 125
Bonds and McCutchen are also close in the numbers of walks (McCutchen's 361 to Bonds' 377). Bonds did have an advantage in number of strikeouts as he was K'd 448 times versus 531 by McCutchen.
While Bonds is not a player adored by the Pirate faithful, he is a player who Pittsburgh fans would agree is one of (if not the most) talented players to ever grace the organization. There is no doubting how great a player (huh hum, pre-asterisk era) Bonds truly was. The fact that McCutchen compares favorably, and in many cases better than Bonds at the same stage of their careers shows how truly special he is as a player. This is in no way saying McCutchen is a sure-fire Hall of Famer or guaranteeing he will go on to equal the career of Barry Bonds. But we all know what Bonds went on to do, and McCutchen is still writing his script.
What the statistics show is that through his first five years, McCutchen is on a similar trajectory as Bonds. With the limited success the Pirates organization has had over the last two decades, it can be hard to fathom how great a player he has truly been. The Pirates and their fans have truly struck gold with McCutchen, and with a little bit of luck in these playoffs, McCutchen could be the one player who makes Pirate fans forget the last 20 years of disappointments.