Bomber Bites With Jumping Joe–Brian McCann Has Had A Better Season Then We Think
By Joe Vitulli
Brian McCann has been a lightning rod for criticism this season from Yankee fans. There were a lot of big expectations after the Yankees inked the former Atlanta Braves All-Star. Yankee fans had grown used to a certain level of offensive production after watching borderline Hall of Famer Jorge Posada for so many years. It took just one season of light hitting Chris Stewart for fans and front office to clamor for change. When a 7-time All-Star and 5-time Silver Slugger like McCann became available, the Yankees jumped and signed him to a five-year deal worth $85 million.
He seemed to be fully recovered from the shoulder surgery he had done after the 2012 season. Analysts predicted a big year for McCann in his first session on pinstripes. His left-handed power swing seemed tailor-made for the short porch in Yankee Stadium. After hitting 20 homers in 2013, many thought a 30 or 40 jack season seemed likely. McCann, of course, fell short of those lofty predictions. He struggled with changing leagues and adjusting to American League pitching. He was also victim of the increased use of infield shifts against him.
Mandatory Credit: Chad R. MacDonald.
McCann has been very streaky at the plate, and seemingly been cold when the Yankees need him most. In several different small sample sizes across the season, McCann has been dreadful. However, over the larger sample size of the entire season, he has been exactly the player that they signed last off-season. He has not seen a dramatic improvement in his stats, but nor has he seen a major decline with the exception of his batting average, with has plummeted this season. He has hit at least 20 home runs, seven of the last eight years with a high of 24. He has hit 22 long balls this season. His RBI numbers have been in steady decline since 2009, but has seen an uptick this season with 71 RBI, his highest total since 2011. His career average is 80 RBI and with a week left in the season, he could be right around his career average.
Meanwhile, behind the plate McCann may be having the best season defensively of his career. McCann has never been known for throwing out baserunners and in fact had more runners steal on him in 2010 and 2011 than any other catcher in baseball. However, this season, he has thrown out a career-high 39% of would be base stealers. He has also gained recognition and notoriety for being one of the best pitch framers in the league. He has handled the entire staff well, and helped a lot of the younger and replacement starters pitch as effectively as they did this season. His defensive value alone, while difficult to quantify at times, and rarely showing up in the box score, has been worth the investment to the Yankees.
McCann would have done well to have planned his hot streaks a little better if such a thing was possible. Too often this season, it seems as if McCann would hit a solo home run in a 4-1 Yankee loss. He did have a few big hits this season, but like the rest of the Yankee lineup, they were too few and too far between. He was a victim of unrealistic expectations and an infield shift that absolutely destroyed his batting average. Although Yankee fans who still clamor for Russell Martin would do well to remember that Martin hit a measly .211 in his final year in the Bronx.
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They should also realize that McCann is still a monster upgrade from Stewart and was undoubtedly the best available catcher last off-season and likely this one as well. The contract is still an absurd amount of money for a catcher on the wrong side of thirty, but over the course of the season, we can see that McCann has been exactly the same player who went to multiple All-Star games for the Braves. Next season, hopefully he can make a few more adjustments to American League pitching and figure a way to beat the shift enough to raise that batting average without sacrificing any of his power.