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Cutch or Tulo: Who's the better MVP candidate?

| Thursday, July 17, 2014, 9:05 p.m.

Andrew McCutchen is building upon his MVP-winning 2013 season by terrifying pitchers like no Pirates outfielder since Barry Bonds. Troy Tulowitzki, finally healthy, is channeling Honus Wagner while dwarfing his shortstop peers. But who's the better MVP candidate in 2014?

McCutchen might have the edge, considering voters often pick a player from a contender, and the Pirates have a shot at the playoffs (34.1 percent, according to Fangraphs) — unlike Colorado (0.1 percent). But if you think the best player should win regardless, it's a close call. Here's a closer look at how McCutchen and Tulowitzki compare with the bat, on the bases and in the field:

Offense: Tulowitzki's raw stats are inflated by Coors Field, which increases offense by 36 percent compared to a neutral venue, according to ESPN's park factors. PNC Park is boosting offense by 6 percent. Once you adjust for the Coors effect, McCutchen boasts a higher on-base plus slugging percentage (79 percent above average) than Tulowitzki (75 percent above average).

Base running: McCutchen clearly holds the edge, going 15 for 15 in steals and taking extra bases at a 42 percent clip that bests the MLB average (41 percent). Tulowitzki is 1 for 2 in steals and is taking extra bases 25 percent. McCutchen's base running has added two runs of value compared to an average player, and Tulowitzki's has subtracted two.

Defense: This could be a deciding factor. Tulowitzki's glove has saved 3.5 runs compared to an average fielder at his position, according to Fangraphs' Ultimate Zone Rating. McCutchen, by contrast, has cost the Bucs 10.4 runs compared to an average center fielder.

When you add up the offensive, defensive and base running value of these up-the-middle stars, Tulowitzki holds a slight edge. Tulowitzki and McCutchen rank first and second, respectively, in wins above replacement (WAR) among NL players.

WAR factor

Player Team WAR

Troy Tulowitzki Rockies 5.2

Andrew McCutchen Pirates 4.6

Carlos Gomez Brewers 4.3

Giancarlo Stanton Marlins 3.8

Todd Frazier Reds 3.7

Source: Fangraphs

David Golebiewski is a freelance writer.

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