A month into the season, the New York Yankees sit in first place of the American League East. It’s a tight battle, with all 5 teams sitting right around .500. First place is nice, but should Yankees’ fans be scared of the big picture?
Brian McCann is possibly the most important piece the Yankees picked up this off-season. The team’s catching situation had been weak at best since Jorge Posada retired, and maybe even a little bit before he retired. Plugging up the backstop with a 7-time All-Star and 5 time Silver Slugger that is barely 30 is a no-brainer.
So far, McCann has had mixed success. He is hitting .229 on the season, but he does have 4 home runs and 12 RBI. That puts him on a pace for roughly 25 home runs and 75 RBI. Of course, being a catcher means he will not be playing in 150 games this season. So any projections are a bit of a blind stab at this point. However, one element about McCann that we can take note of and definitely worry about is how he hits with the shift.
“The Shift is on” is one of the more annoying things I could ever hear Michael Kay say during a game. What was once a fringe attempt to get an extra player on one side of the field when players like David Ortiz and Adam Dunn came to bat, is now a virus that is plaguing the entire MLB. The Tampa Bay Rays have been “credited” with making the shift much more mainstream and for more than your average power dead-pull hitters. I can’t lie, as someone that loves the idea of Moneyball, I hate defensive shifting. No matter what the numbers say, it does not look like baseball to me. Plus it ruins scorebooks. Scorebooks ARE baseball.
Brian McCann has seen a heavy dose of defensive shifts this season to almost no success. It took him weeks to get over .200 and is hovering very close. Of course, the home run beats any shift, but we can’t expect it. McCann is not the only Yankee that has to deal with the shift all season, Mark Teixeira anyone? Unfortunately for McCann, he’s slow. Catchers almost always are. So even those ground balls that second basemen grab basically in right field are becoming outs. Against a normal defense this year, McCann would not have started off so slowly. He was absolutely tearing the cover off the ball in early April.
So Yankee fans, should McCann continue to approach the plate the same way he always has, or should he accept the shift is here to stay and he needs to rethink how he bats?