PITTSBURGH -- Through the first quarter of the season, Andrew McCutchen's patience has been tried -- and he has passed with walking colors.
"I checked the other day, and I'm fifth [in the National League] in pitches per at-bat. It shows you I am getting pitched differently," said McCutchen, who continues to lead the league with 34 walks. "I've always been a patient hitter, so that part isn't hard for me to adjust to."
Manager Clint Hurdle also applauds McCutchen's willingness to take the walks and let others behind him do the heavy lifting.
"Cutch has shown really good discipline," Hurdle said. "His walks are up, his strikeouts are down. He's taking what they give him."
The problem: It is taking away from the Bucs' offense.
Teams have not had to pay for their decisions to pitch around the defending NL MVP Award winner. Few of McCutchen's walks have turned into runs; he has scored only 21, and the walks have been followed by cleanup hitters (mostly Pedro Alvarez, with Gaby Sanchez also filling that spot a couple of times) going 8-for-31.
Most significantly, the strategy has turned off the Bucs' right-handed power. McCutchen himself has only four home runs -- three of them in consecutive games on April 21-23 -- and he has not had an extra-base hit of any kind in 35 at-bats since May 5.
Neil Walker has hit eight of his nine home runs from the left side, and Alvarez also has eight. On Sunday, Starling Marte hit his fourth, tying McCutchen for the team lead in home runs by a right-handed hitter.
"It's all about getting your pitch, seeing it and being ready to hit it. It's that one pitch," said McCutchen, who still feels he gets one hittable pitch each at-bat but, "a lot of times before, that pitch was a fastball. Now, it's a little different; it may be a curve or a changeup."
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.