Andrew McCutchen is hitting .491 (26 for 53) in July, with a .542 on-base percentage, a .943 slugging percentage and a 1.485 OPS.
He has homered in five of his last seven games through Thursday, and after a homer-less April, has gone deep 22 times in his last 247 at-bats — just in case you may have wondered why he was part of the National League's Home Run Derby foursome.
McCutchen also was the NL's player of the month in June, when he posted a slash line of .370/.420/.676. So in his last 161 at-bats, he is hitting .410 with 14 homers and 40 RBI, and is flirting with a .500 on-base percentage.
Think he'll be the NL's player of the month in July, too?
"It's ridiculous,'' Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. "It's just not that easy to do.''
But we're just getting started:
McCutchen's full-season numbers against left-handed pitching — in the words of Pirates manager Clint Hurdle — 'are crazy': .470/.505/.819.
Since April, when McCutchen hit only .302 with seven RBI, he's at .393 with 22 homers and 58 RBI, with a slugging percentage hovering around .750.
This remarkable stretch has vaulted McCutchen, 25, into lofty, Triple Crown territory. He's a runaway leader in the NL batting race, one RBI behind league-leader Carlos Beltran, and four homers shy of Ryan Braun.
McCutchen also leads the league in runs scored, total bases, slugging percentage, OPS and average with runners in scoring position, and is second in hits, and third in OBP.
And incidentally, his .369 batting average would be the highest single-season mark by a right-handed hitter since Andres Galarraga's .370 in 1993.
All from a compact-but-muscular 5-10, 185-pound frame. It's enough for Hurdle — who has seen his share of hitting feats over the years as hitting coach and manager of the Rockies (1997-2009), as well as hitting coach for the 2010 Texas Rangers — to say:
"I saw (Larry) Walker go through a (1997 NL MVP) season that was indicative of what Andrew is doing. I've seen (Todd) Helton go on stretches. The last one to grab me was the month of June, 2010, for Josh Hamilton. He had 49 hits in the month of June. That's a lot of hits.
"Then I look at Andrew, and it might be the best I've ever seen. It very well could be. It's not just about looking at the numbers. I'm watching this young man perform. Then I'm taking into consideration the situation, the cast of characters, the lineup and everything else, and I'm thinking, wow, this is special.''
Hurdle is referencing the Pirates' 2012 feel-good story, of course. And how McCutchen is carrying a scrappy squad to heights it hasn't seen in 20 years — not only a winning record, but a playoff qualifier if the season ended today.
There is no group of slugging 'Bombers' around McCutchen. He hits third in the lineup, and his cleanup-hitter protection alternates between journeymen Garrett Jones against right-handed pitching and Casey McGehee against left-handed pitching.
Other than McCutchen, only Neil Walker among Pirates regulars is hitting above .273; only Pedro Alvarez and Jones also have hit double figures in home runs. In other words, McCutchen leads the team in everything, and it's not even close.
"We're talking about a strong MVP candidate,'' is how Tracy puts it.
Of course, Tracy had an inkling of what was to come way back during his two-year stint (2006-07) as Pirates' manager. Tracy still can recall in great detail a spring-training play made by McCutchen — then a minor-league teenager — taking a home-run away from Adam Dunn with a leaping, crashing-into-the-wall-at-full-speed catch.
"To this day, I didn't think there was a human being breathing who could have made a catch like that,'' Tracy said. "And then he doubled up the runner from first base, who already was rounding third. It was absolutely incredible. It was pretty evident he'd be a very special player.''
Of course, you could say that going back even earlier in McCutchen's life. According to the Pirates' media guide, he led Polk County (Fla.) high schoolers in hitting — as an eighth grader. As a high-school freshman, he was All-County in baseball and track, and part of a state-champion 4x100-meter relay team. And as a senior at Fort Meade High — just before the Pirates selected him 11th overall in the 2005 draft — he hit .709 with 16 homers and 42 RBI.
McCutchen, to his credit, tries to keep it simple. Yes, he has the long dreadlocks, several tattoos and can pull off wearing shiny, high-top sneakers with both red-and-white plaid, and black-and-white plaid designs on them. Yet, he comes across as humble and unassuming.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
And as for making the game look way easier than it is, his response is, ''I'm just trying to simplify things. I try to stay within myself, and not try to do too much. When I do those things, good things happen.''
McCutchen got away from that approach in the second half of 2011, when as the Pirates sank to a 25-47 second half after a 47-43 start, he tried to take on too much of the load. The result was a plummeting batting average and walk total, a spiking strikeout total and a too-pull-oriented swing. All distant memories now.
"When we started struggling, he tried to change games with one swing,'' Hurdle said. "It's just human instinct. But he went home with a to-do list, came back with a new stance, and hasn't changed it since the first day of mini-camp.
"He starts a little open, gets back to closed, focuses on hitting the fastball to the big part of the park, and pulls breaking balls. He's playing the game as well as anybody in the game is playing it right now.
"We're 3 1/2 months into the season, and it's been a special 3 1/2 months. That's where I'll leave it. Am I optimistic about his future? Absolutely. We all should have all bought in back in April.''
HBT: Controversial umpire Angel Hernandez blew another call that nearly cost the White Sox a win on Friday, earning the ire of manager Robin Ventura.
Add another near miss in this 2013 baseball season - this time it was Detroit's Anibal Sanchez falling just short of a no-hitter.
Taking a look at some of the greatest catchers off all time.