They say that every player is affected to some degree by where he bats in the lineup, and it seems that the slugger's mentality of the cleanup spot began to sink into Brian McCann as the season went along. The common generalization about McCann is that he began to wear down in the second half, but his numbers don't completely bear that out. He didn't wear down, he became more of a homerun hitter and a run producer and all of the strikeouts and ills that go with it.
The numbers are very slight, and maybe it's just the extra luck of another homerun or two a month, but before the All-Star break McCann was hitting 2 or 3 homers a month, and after the break he was hitting 4 or 5 a month. The RBIs also followed, with no month over 15 before the break, and every month after the break over 20 RBIs per month.
The result was that in the same number of games played (69), McCann had 20 more RBIs in the second half of the year. This, of course, could also be a result of the people on base ahead of him, as Prado and McLouth did a better job than Yunel and Johnson of getting on in front of the middle of the order.
While he added more homerun power, his overall power declined throughout the year after peaking in July. Actually, July has been his best month year after year. Each of the last three years his best month has been the same month as the All-Star break. While he has participated in the All-Star game perhaps there's something about having a few days off that helps him over the long haul. Perhaps he's inspired by being around all of the other star players. Perhaps he just likes the July heat a lot. The takeaway from this could be the first point, that he does better when given multiple days of rest.
With as good of a backup catcher as we now have in David Ross, there is no reason for McCann not to have a day off every week. Consider July after the All-Star break, McCann had one game out of the next 15 that he didn't start. Yes, he did well in those game, and it was probably hard to take him out of the lineup, but after getting a day off he went 3-for-his-next-24. Long stretches of play were consistently followed by slumps. After playing 7 games in a row at the end of August, McCann goes 3-for-his-next-29.
The odd thing about all of these points is that they seem to contradict one another. On one hand his slugging percentage was higher in the first three months, but he hit more homeruns and drove in more RBIs with a lower slugging percentage in the second half. Did he wear down or just change his approach. I say again, did his spot in the lineup affect his decisions at the plate?
McCann also seems to have a really great year and then a good year. 2006 and 2008 were really great years, 2007 and 2009 were good years. If you follow that logic, McCann should be unleashed next season. Even with the slight decline in odd numbered years those good years are getting better, so the overall arc of his improvement is still trending upwards. The best catcher in the National League and he's getting better... fantastic.
McCann should benefit next season if the Braves acquire a cleanup hitter -- throughout his career, McCann has been a better 5th or 6th-place hitter, than a cleanup hitter (that's not to say he's been a bad cleanup hitter, though). I'd also like to see McCann get more regular days off next year. Ross was a more than capable backup, and another by-product of acquiring a cleanup hitter this off-season could be that McCann might be able to get a few more days off.
|2009 - Brian McCann||138||488||63||137||35||1||21||94||49||83||4||1||.281||.349||.486|
Coming up tomorrow we'll take a look at the 2009 season of David Ross.