The Adjustments Andrew McCutchen Made

Andrew McCutchen has been feeling it for a little while now. (Photo: Keith Allison)

Interviews are often meandering things that you have to corral in order to make sense of anything. Every once in a while, though, you get a player with a cadence that should remain unbroken and a subject that provides them with a runway — why stand in the way? I once did this with J.D. Martinez, who has taken to this game in a mechanical manner and told us how he came to his realizations about how he should best play baseball. Now let’s let Andrew McCutchen talk about how he got his mojo back, in only the way he can. It’s a very different approach, but there’s a beauty in that I’d rather not sully with my own words.

“I don’t look anywhere specifically. The struggle of the season, in the beginning, has nothing to do with the location of pitches, it has to do with me, from the start. It has to do with my setup in the box, it has to do with my preparation, being ready to hit whatever is thrown at me. The reason I was struggling was because of what I was doing prior to swinging the bat.

Andrew McCutchen has really honed in on a certain part of the zone with his fastball swings.

“When I started to get myself in a better spot, ready to hit — since my setup was good, since my approach was good, since mentally I was good, since physically I was good, whatever was thrown, I was ready to hit it, and I hit it. In April or May, I would get a pitch to hit and I would foul it off or I’d swing and miss it, or I’d take it for a pitch, and then I’d get myself into those holes where I’m in a oh-one, oh-two hole and I’d have to battle.

Andrew McCutchen Batted Ball Stats by Period
Date GB% FB% HR/FB Cent% Exit Velocity Launch Angle
April & May 42.8% 40.1% 13.1% 34.9% 88.2 13.6
June & July 35.7% 37.1% 19.2% 37.1% 88.1 15.6
SOURCE: Statcast
McCutchen is hitting the ball slightly more often in the air to the middle of the field.

“There were some small adjustments here or there, and that was why the process of getting back took so long. It wasn’t one of those things where you’re going to look back and see oh, I see what he’s doing differently now. You won’t have the perfect camera angle to be able to notice it anyway. I can see myself five years ago when I felt my best, and go back and watch that.

McCutchen from the side view on an early-season double.

“But I need that side angle, so I’m watching that side angle, and early this season, I thought, let’s compare them. But they’re two different camera angles. You’re straight on here, this one is from the top of the stadium looking down. It’s hard to be able to pinpoint the differences. I’m a very visual guy, you can give me two pictures, put them next to each other and I’ll see the difference.

McCutchen from a dissimilar side view in July.

“It’s all about setting up in the box. I sit the bat on my chest, and then I pick it up, and I’m ready. There’s something in there, in the midst of all of that, there’s a certain feel I’m trying to feel. I want to feel that every single time, every single pitch. Just mimicking that feel over and over again.

“My preparation and my work is my setup. When I’m getting in the cage, or doing the tee, I’m taking my time to get that feeling. That overall feeling. People might think that’s too much, but look at the greatest athletes of the world. Athletes in the Olympics. Watch them in their craft. You don’t think they’re trying to have that same feeling, repeat the same thing over and over and over? Look at high jumpers and long jumpers, they’re trying to take the same exact steps so they can hit that exact spot over and over again. When they miss, it’s because they didn’t mimic that motion, and feel that feeling.

“Repetition. Once I found the feeling that I was looking for, that feeling that I needed, I just wanted to stay there. Stay there. That takes an a-ha moment. It’s more of a pitch, you get it, you whack it, and you say, uh-huh, there it is.

The moment McCutchen found it.

“I know what your next question is going to be. When was that ah-ha moment this year. Miami, this year, at home, facing Dan Straily on the mound, and I know my numbers against him aren’t good, but I know that I was having that feeling, I was starting to feel better, I’m ready to go. In the first at-bat, he threw me a fastball that was almost chest high and I whacked it to left center, and I said, that’s it. That whole thing I just did right there, that was it. Alright, it’s on. From there, I took off.

Andrew McCutchen’s Two Seasons
Before Game vs Straily 10.2% 19.1% 0.251 0.328 0.436 0.281 101
After Game vs Straily 15.8% 12.0% 0.354 0.462 0.631 0.359 183

“Sometimes, the pitcher will be on that day, and you have some at-bats where you say, I didn’t get a pitch to hit, the whole entire day. That has nothing to do with me. I’m in a good spot, I don’t need to change anything.

“That’s why it’s all about feel. It’s about how you feel in the midst of it all. I’m not thinking about hands, leg, feet, pitch. I’m thinking about feeling. All of that stuff just happens because of me feeling good. I’m in an awesome, really good spot more times than not now.”

With a phone full of pictures of pitchers' fingers, strange beers, and his two toddler sons, Eno Sarris can be found at the ballpark or a brewery most days. Read him here, writing about the A's or Giants at The Athletic, or about beer at October. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris if you can handle the sandwiches and inanity.

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Great stuff. Takes a lot of humility to simply an interviewee talk and then simply transcribe the conversation. That was excellent.

Also loved that he gave a specific AB.

Awesome stuff, Eno.