One of the hardest things about baseball is predicting what a player is capable of in the pre-season. Many felt that Brian McCann would be a top 5 catcher after signing his contract to play in the bandbox that is Yankee Stadium. However, it is difficult to predict how a change in leagues and teams will affect any player after signing as a free agent. But after a very disappointing start to his 2014 is it time to bail on Brian? Here are his stats thus far:
- Brian McCann 2014 Stats – 69 G, 24 R, 8 HR, 34 RBI 218/280/354
According to the ESPN Player Rater, Brian McCAnn currently sits at 18th at the catcher position..While the numbers are frustrating McCann is still tied for fourth in home runs at the position. His replacement in Atlanta, Evan Gattis, though has exceeded expectations leading all catchers in HR’s and is second in RBI to Miguel Montero. Fueling the disappointment with McCann was the price tag that it took to roster him as a Yankee. But his BABIP suggests that some of this is bad luck. His career BABIP is .285 but so far in 2014 it sits at a career low .226. With teams utilizing the shift more against him, it has been a very trying debut in the Big Apple. Can McCann turn it around? Delving further into his stats it appears that he really has not strayed too far from his statistical past:
According to his charts on Fangraphs.com, McCann is actually hitting the ball harder and his rates are in line with his career numbers. So is it bad luck or approach?
For clarity, O-Swing % are pitches that he swings at outside the strike zone, Z-Swing are pitches he swings at inside the strike zone. Again, no crazy variance in his approach and his SwStr (Swinging Strike) percentage has even dropped in 2014 so why is he hitting for such a low average? All signs point to the “shift” but there is evidence of a season long struggle in his past:
- Brian McCann 2012 – 121 G, 44 R, 20 HR, 67 RBI, 3 SB 230/300/399
You can guess that his BABIP was .234 that season so it can poke a hole in his second half surge that many are planning on. Here are some charts from BrooksBaseball.net to further illustrate his current struggle:
McCann’s spray chart illustrates his current batting average struggle. You can connect a direct triangle between first and second base extended to the wall in RF to see how teams are lining up against him for outs. His zone profile shows that he chases pitches low and away with negative results. Teams are not pitching him inside and when he does get a pitch down the middle, his resulting BABIP is only .222 going four for eighteen. Fangraph.com’s adjusted projections for McCann show limited upside for the rest of the year as well:
- McCann’s ZiPS (R) – 68 G, 27 R, 11 HR, 38 RBI 246/322/422
- McCann’s Steamer (R) – 74 G, 38 R, 14 HR, 42 RBI 238/307/406
Both of these projections say it is too early to give up on McCann but it will depend on your level of trust if you want to buy low. His ability to adjust to the shift will determine his outcome the rest of the way. If he can take more advantage of the balls he can hit well in the zone an improvement may well be on the way. But if he continues to struggle a repeat of 2012 could be in the offing. I am more in line with the ZiPS projection going forward. McCann just needs a BABIP adjustment to be more successful. Feeling lucky?
Greg Jewett is a staff writer for Roto Analysis and you can follow us on Twitter @RotoAnalysis and @gjewett9