As the Atlanta Braves keep battling towards the postseason it has become clear that they need more contributions from more players. Sure, Bourn, Prado, Heyward, Chipper, and Freeman have been doing their part to propel the offense, but as their recent struggles have shown, when they slump others have to pick up the slack. For the better part of this year, the Braves have been missing several key parts of their offense, especially Brian McCann.
McCann was part of the Braves surge in July, the best month the team has had this year. And his 9 home runs and 21 RBI that month contributed greatly to their offensive output, and show how dynamic and unbeatable the Braves can be when McCann is contributing to the lineup.
Since the beginning of August, though, McCann has hit just .194, with no home runs and just two RBI. The lack of home runs is most troubling, as is the lack of any extra base hits of any kind. The last extra base hit from McCann was on the last day of July. The struggles of McCann can be seen in the struggles of the team this month.
McCann has been playing through injuries most of the year, injuries that have gotten worse and taken their toll on the 28-year old catcher as the season has gone on. Two weeks ago McCann told reporters that he has a cyst on a joint in his shoulder and a frayed labrum. The team calls it shoulder subluxation. Whatever the diagnosis, the Braves need McCann to return to his career norms, or better, because he's one of the guys on this team who can carry the team when he's going good.
Through the first 13 games McCann played in August it had gotten bad. He hit just .103 over that stretch providing almost zero offensive value. There are some signs of hope from McCann, and ever since the 13 inning loss to Washington on August 20th, McCann has been closer to what we have come to expect out of him. It's just a seven game span, but he's collected nine hits to post a .321 average, hitting safely in all but one game. Still, though, he is without an extra base hit.
If the Braves are to catch the Nationals, they're going to need all hands on deck. They're going to need the best out of the players they've got, because unless they surprise everyone today (waiver trade deadline), they're not getting anyone else. McCann had his offense impacted by an injury last season. When he returned from that oblique injury in mid-August he hit just .180 the rest of the season. This was a big part of the offensive outage the Braves experienced last year which led to that which shall not be named.
McCann's got to hit -- that's where his value is to the team. For his own sake, and the sake of staying in Atlanta beyond next year, he can't finish another season leaving a bad taste in the mouth of management. McCann's slumps are cause for concern that he is slump-prone. Even though these slumps seem linked to injuries, the team has to be concerned about giving any sort of contract extension to a player so afflicted.
It was hard to stay with McCann when he went through his struggles last year, and it's getting harder to stay with him as he goes through them again this year. I'm still a McCann fan, I just wish there was a little more to root for. In September and beyond I hope there's a lot to root for.