Without question, one of baseball's most surprising teams this year has been the Pittsburgh Pirates. After long stretches of losing seasons, the Pirates have resurfaced this season as one of the best young teams in baseball. Perhaps the biggest reason for their success this season is none other than All-Star outfielder Andrew McCutchen. Representing the lone bright spot for the Pirates in the past several seasons, the 25-year-old has taken his game to a new level this season catapulting the "Buccos" into the thick of a tight NL Central race. A legitimate 5-tool player, McCutchen saw his share of success in his first three professional seasons but this year he resembles nothing short of an MVP candidate. His .368 batting average is tops in all of baseball while his 23 home runs and 67 RBIs are in the top 5 for the National League. With approximately 60 games to go, McCutchen is on pace to set career-highs in nearly every statistical category.
What changed from last season to this season? His success can be partly attributed to another year of experience in the majors but his intense offseason training regimen at IMG Academy has had a significant impact on McCutchen's power numbers. As of today, McCutchen has already matched last year's home run total and is projected to surpass it by 13 long balls. With a combination of strength and speed training, McCutchen participated in rigorous 2-a-day workouts on the IMG Academy campus. He recently discussed his routine in an interview with Yahoo Sports' David Brown:
DB: An ESPN the Magazine article references your offseason training regimen. Lemme quote: "Two-a-day conditioning sessions and the yoga and the pool sprints and the pushups with the 50 pounds of chains wrapped around your torso." What were you doing to yourself there?
AM: It was one of the workouts I did when I was over at IMG Academy [in Bradenton, Fla.>. I just tried to raise my level of training to the highest point that I could. I wanted to work hard there so, going into spring training, I knew I'd be physically and mentally ready for whatever came at me. That's how I went into the season and I have no regrets about it.
DB: Did they ever combine the chains and the swimming?
AM: Nah, unless you want to drown, no one's really going to do that one [laughs>. There's no need to prepare you for that. But they had some effective workouts, and good people pushing me.
As one of the people who pushed McCutchen during his time at IMG Academy, Baseball Performance Coach Blaine Bott said he wasn't surprised at McCutchen's success this season. "It was great to see him have such success after the work he put in this offseason," says Bott.With just over 50 games left in the regular season, McCutchen will need to continue his torrid pace as both the National League Central and MVP races come down to the wire. With his work ethic, he will be tough to top says Bott, "There isn't any one in the league that is going to outwork that guy."