Hayes recognized by Pittsburgh writers as Bucs' Most Valuable Player

Keller named winner of the Steve Blass Award, McCutchen earns Chuck Tanner Award

September 30th, 2023

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The Pittsburgh chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA) announced on Saturday that Ke’Bryan Hayes was named the Pirates’ 2023 Roberto Clemente Award winner, the annual honor that goes to the team’s most valuable player.

"I think we saw a healthy Ke'Bryan Hayes for an extended period of time," said manager Derek Shelton. "The ability to drive the ball, the ability to have consistent at-bats. Defensively, it's well-documented how I feel about him. We're seeing the complete player. He's a guy that can do so many things that can impact the game in so many different ways."

Additionally, Mitch Keller was named the winner of the Steve Blass Award, given to the club’s best pitcher, for the second season in a row. Andrew McCutchen, who earned the Roberto Clemente Award in 2015, was named the winner of the Chuck Tanner Award, given to the player who was most cooperative with the media. 

Hayes has put together the best offensive season of his career, posting career bests in batting average (.272), slugging percentage (.452), hits (133), home runs (15), RBIs (63), runs scored (64), total bases (221) and fWAR (3.2).

In addition to his offense, Hayes has been elite on defense. Despite missing a good chunk of the season due to a lower back injury, Hayes leads all third basemen in Defensive Runs Saved (21) and Outs Above Average (17), making him a strong favorite to win his first Gold Glove and a candidate to win the Platinum Glove. 

Similar to Hayes, Keller, a first-time All-Star, put up personal bests all across the board, posting career highs or career bests in innings (194 1/3), strikeouts (210), starts (32), wins (13), fWAR (3.3), bWAR (2.8) FIP (3.80) and xFIP (3.71). When asked what he’s most proud of, Keller cited his ability to go a full season for the first time in his career.

“I’ve never done that before,” Keller said. “I’ve thrown the most innings [of my career]. Obviously, the strikeouts are cool. Just a lot of cool games.”

The right-hander earned National League Player of the Week honors in mid-May, tossing his first career shutout on May 8, then following up that performance with seven shutout innings and a career-high 13 strikeouts on May 14. 

"At the time, we knew [the Orioles] were a really good team, but now, they have over 100 wins," Keller said. "That's probably one of the cooler outings I've ever had. It was a lot of fun."

“I think we've seen a guy that's going to help anchor a rotation,” Shelton said. “We saw him really, really good, probably about as good as he could be. Then, we saw him hit a little bit of a lull, and we saw him bounce out of it not only in terms of what his usage should be, how he should pitch, where his velocity’s at. I think that's the sign of a really good pitcher, because when you go through stretches when you're not throwing the ball as well, it's how you bounce out of those stretches. He had to do the whole circle this year.”

From McCutchen's first game back at PNC Park as a Pirate to his 2,000th career hit to his Anthrocon exploits, he certainly had a lot to discuss over the last several months.

In his return to the Pirates, the 36-year-old enjoyed a renaissance year and bounced back from the worst offensive season of his career. After posting career lows in on-base percentage (.316) and slugging percentage (.384) with the Brewers in 2022, McCutchen returned to form with the Pirates this season. 

McCutchen, who has 299 career home runs, was robbed of a shot at his 300th career home run due to a partial tear of his left Achilles, but he finished the year with a higher batting average (.256), on-base percentage (.378) and slugging percentage (.397) compared to his lone season with the Brewers.