The three syllables ricocheted off the steel trusses and limestone walls of PNC Park, echoing over Andrew McCutchen's head.

He dug his compact, muscular form into the batter's box and prepared to unleash the strength of a power hitter coiled within the body of a sprinter, the skills that are helping him produce one of the best seasons by any player in the National League.

"M-V-P! M-V-P!" shouted the 21,041 fans at PNC Park Monday night, and McCutchen, who went 4 for 5, who scored three runs, who raised his batting average to .354, didn't disappoint.

McCutchen, the Pirates' All-Star center fielder, is not only having the best season of his career but has elevated his performance to the top of the league. The facts of the case: The 25-year-old McCutchen's .356 average tied the San Francisco Giants' Melky Cabrera for the league lead entering the Pirates' weekend series against the Giants. His .410 on-base percentage ranked fourth in the NL and his 1.014 on-base-plus-slugging percentage (OPS) tied him for third. He had 16 home runs and 14 stolen bases.

For McCutchen to have a shot at the award inspiring the fans' chants, he will have to overtake the Cincinnati Reds' Joey Votto, the clubhouse leader, who leads the league in on-base percentage, doubles and walks. McCutchen must also battle the New York Mets' David Wright, the Philadelphia Phillies' Carlos Ruiz and the Colorado Rockies' Carlos Gonzalez, who represent the cream of the NL crop.

Those who rose through the organization with McCutchen had the opportunity to witness his potential. Recent additions to the roster who used to watch from the opposite dugout and now observe him on a daily basis are impressed with how he plays.

"He's the true five-tool player," said Chris Resop, who joined the Pirates in late 2010. "It's fun to watch. Every at bat is, 'What's he going to do now?' Nothing surprises you anymore."