PITTSBURGH -- Clint Hurdle was flabbergasted when Andrew McCutchen led the National League with 194 hits in 2012, yet could convert that into only 96 RBIs. The enigma was the same last season, when McCutchen hit well enough to earn NL MVP honors -- yet could drive in only 84 runs.
Add the fact that McCutchen drove in himself on 52 homers over those two seasons, and his few opportunities to bat with men in scoring position becomes even more apparent.
Hence, the Pirates manager admitted Wednesday, he has toyed with the idea of moving McCutchen from his familiar No. 3 spot in the lineup.
"Yeah, I've thought about it. And we've done it theoretically on paper, worked through all these different lineups," Hurdle said. "If certain things would work out, it could be an advantage [lowering McCutchen], but it's all hypothetical."
Rather than move McCutchen, Hurdle has moved the guy in front of him. Starling Marte has become a fixture (for now) at leadoff, but in this young season the Bucs have already tried five players in the two-hole, with Neil Walker the latest.
"We're trying to put some guys in front of him who have on-base histories to give him opportunities to maximize his at-bats," Hurdle said.
Through 21 games, McCutchen had found those run-producing chances even rarer than usual. Teams have avoided him in key situations, and he continues to lead the league with 18 walks.
In those 21 games, McCutchen has come to bat with a total of 21 men in scoring position. He has been walked five times in those situations. He has gotten to swing with 15 men in scoring position, and has driven in nine of them.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.