Brian McCann Probably Couldn’t Be Given Away For Free

The August waiver period can be an interesting time, because it gives you a little bit of insight into how teams around the bigs value certain players. For example, it came as absolutely no surprise that the overpriced and under-performing Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier made it through waivers, or that Cole Hamels, Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg did not. It came as a bit of a surprise that Jon Niese did get through, which maybe tells you something about how other teams view his shoulder and that he’s perhaps not as valuable as Mets fans seemed to think; if the worst-case scenario is that the Mets stick you with the $16 million he has left after this year and still nobody was interested, that’s not a great sign.

For guys like Crawford, Ethier and others, their contracts were signed years ago, and obviously much has changed since then, so it’s most interesting to see how the industry reacts to players who were popular free agents just last winter, a mere eight months or so ago. While obviously not every roster move or claim is public, we know of at least one: Curtis Granderson, who signed for four years and $60 million with the Mets. Even with the desperate need for offense around the majors, Granderson, on pace for only a two-win season despite a rebound from a slow start, went unclaimed. At 33, two years off his last good season and three years away from his last great one, the risk wasn’t worth it.

This isn’t about Granderson, though; it’s about one of the other major New York signings from last winter who is off to an atrocious start in his new home and has a considerable amount of money still coming: Brian McCann, who returned from a stay on the concussion list yesterday. We don’t know if McCann has been put on waivers or if anyone would put in a claim — you imagine a rich team with catching issues like the Dodgers would at least think about it, though not necessarily do it — but isn’t it fascinating to think that if someone did claim him, the Yankees might be best off just letting him go?

I don’t even mean a trade, because McCann has a full no-trade clause, along with $68 million coming his way between 2015-18, $17 million each year. (Plus a potential 2019 $15 million option that becomes a player option if certain playing time incentives are hit.) I mean just a straight “you take him, we don’t want him any longer.” It’s not likely to happen for a variety of reasons, but the main reason is that it would require a team to actually put in a claim on him, and who can really see that happening? Almost no one. The all but certain outcome of the Yankees putting him on waivers would be 29 other teams saying, “thanks, but no thanks.”

To illustrate the depths of McCann’s struggles a bit, here he is, compared to another American League catcher:

PA BA OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ WAR
McCann 406 .235 .291 .380 6.4 14.5 85 1.2
Catcher 2 361 .242 .303 .367 6.4 34.3 86 1.3

With the exception of the huge difference in strikeouts, these two are essentially the same player in 2014. The other catcher? Chicago’s Tyler Flowers, hardly anyone’s idea of a star. You’ll note, also, that of the 28 catchers with at least 250 plate appearances, these two rank 25th and 26th in wRC+. One of the two behind them, A.J. Pierzynski, was already DFA’d this year.

It’s not good company to be in, but let’s look a little deeper at that comparison, specifically how McCann has managed to make so much more contact than Flowers and still end up with the same production. Here’s one reason why: McCann has a .247 BABIP. Last year, it was .261. Two years ago, it was .234. Looking at his career average of .286, it seems like that’s below his normals, but looking at his last three years, it seems like the new normal. That he had a .332 mark back in 2006 doesn’t seem to hold a lot of relevance now, is the point.

Much has been made of McCann and his issues facing the shift, and that’s true to an extent. Just look at the list of the hitters with the worst batting averages on grounders:

5) David Ortiz, .153
4) McCann, .145
3) Ryan Howard, .143
2) Mark Teixeira, .138
1) Mike Moustakas, .111

Slow lefty pull hitters get shifted on, and that turns balls that may have been hits years ago into outs. News at 11, right? Except, there’s only so much blame to be put on the shift in McCann’s troubles, because this isn’t a new thing. McCann was among the most-heavily shifted players last year, too. He was among the most shifted players in 2010-11. There’s evidence that he’s seeing it more, now, but the shift alone hardly explains his up-and-down last five years of three very similar good seasons (2010, ’11, ’13, all with wRC+ 121-123) and two poor years (2012, ruined by a shoulder injury, and ’14, with wRC+ of 85 and 87). He’s always been shifted on. It’s overly simplistic to put it all on that.

Besides, McCann has been doing what he can to avoid it. His grounder rate of 33.0% is easily the lowest of his career, and he’s hit the ball in play to the opposite field 77 times after having done so only 58 times last year and 74 times in 2011, skipping the shortened 2012. He’s actually in the top 15 as far as lefty hitters going the other way; last year, he didn’t appear in the top 65. McCann is making a concerted effort to beat the shift, and it’s still not really working.

Well, there’s a few things. First, here’s an incredibly depressing list of numbers:

13.1 — 10.8 — 9.0 — 9.7 — 6.4 

You don’t know what those are. I’ll tell you what they are. They’re McCann’s walk rate, declining pretty steadily from 2010 until now, where it’s less than half what it was, and this is sort of the thing: McCann’s lousy year isn’t any one thing. It’s a few small things, adding up. Giving back 30 or so free trips to first base isn’t fatal by itself, but it certainly isn’t helping. It’s not why his batting average is lousy, obviously; it is a part of why his OBP is below .300.

There’s also this: McCann’s power, which everyone figured would translate well to the short right field porch at Yankee Stadium, hasn’t come with him. It’s actually less that he’s failed to take advantage of right field in the Bronx, and more that it’s been the only thing making his homer totals look even respectable. Below, McCann’s spray chart, with only the home runs shown:

mccann_hr-chart-crop

Every single one is out to right field; all but two are at Yankee Stadium. Per Hit Tracker, just one, off Craig Breslow in June, was a “no-doubter.” Only two had a “true distance” of more than 400 feet, and three of them wouldn’t have made it out of at least 27 other parks. If Yankee Stadium wasn’t his home, he might have about as many home runs as Billy Hamilton.

So there’s the conundrum, really. If McCann pulls the ball, he’ll hit into the shift far too much and generate outs. If he tries to play it smart and go to the opposite field, as he’s been trying to do this year, he won’t hit for nearly as much power, because hitting opposite field homers is generally pretty difficult for most hitters — especially a guy like McCann, who has pulled 151 of his 189 career homers. In years past, he could hit it over the shift. Now, perhaps still feeling the effects of that shoulder injury, it simply hasn’t happened.

To his credit, McCann appears to be trying to adapt, not only by going the other way, but by changing his mechanics to eliminate a toe tap from his swing in June, which has had some effect, but not enough of one. And it’s not all bad, of course, because McCann is still viewed as a positive pitch framer, and that’s not without value.

Unfortunately, McCann will need to improve considerably just to get back to being a league-average hitter, and even with how difficult it is to find offense from behind the plate, that’s not exactly what the Yankees were hoping for when they invested so much in him over the winter. A roughly two-win player, which is what he’s been for the last few years, is nice to have. It’s hard to justify that for the contract he has, though, and to get back to the original point: no, of course he’ll make it through waivers unclaimed. Leaving the Yankees wouldn’t change the shift tendencies he’s seeing; it would just take away that right field safety net. McCann and the Yankees are going to be together for a while, it seems, for better or — perhaps more likely — worse.




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Mike Petriello lives in New York and writes about the Dodgers daily at Dodgers Digest, as well as contributing to ESPN Insider. He wrote two chapters in the 2014 Hardball Times Annual as well as building The Hardball Times and TechGraphs, and was an editorial producer at Sports on Earth. Find him at @mike_petriello.


100 Responses to “Brian McCann Probably Couldn’t Be Given Away For Free”

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  1. D. Goat says:

    Nice stuff, Mike and I guess i learned something (or a few things)…a no-trade clause doesn’t prevent a player from simply being waived and claimed by another team? It makes sense but i never realized it.

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    • Jonathan says:

      It doesn’t stop it, but the claim can’t be finalized without the NTC being waived. This was actually a big point of discussion when the Punto trade happened in 2012. Both Crawford and Beckett had to waive their NTC to go to LA in the deal, despite being claimed.

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      • Mike Petriello says:

        But that *was* a trade, not a straight waiver claim.

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        • Jonathan says:

          Still applies. A player must waive his rights to be sent to another team, be it through outright waivers or trade waivers. There’s no way to move McCann without his permission (The closest would be release waivers, but considering you’re still paying him in full anyway, it’s not really applicable).

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        • Mike Petriello says:

          Do you have any links to back that up? I’m open to being wrong, but I don’t believe I am.

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        • Anon21 says:

          http://www.purplerow.com/2009/2/19/762532/mlb-transactions-part-thre

          “Like outright waivers, a player with a no-trade clause who is claimed must be pulled back if the player’s no-trade clause allows him to block a deal to the claiming club.”

          http://knuckleballsblog.com/2010/08/05/when-is-a-trade-deadline-not-a-trade-deadline/

          “But if a player is claimed by a team to which he has the right to reject a trade, his team is required to revoke the waiver unless the player agrees (usually for a hefty price) to waive the no-trade rights and join the new team.”

          Which are not like grade-A sources, I’ll admit. But what’s your source, Mike? And if you have no source, why do you think you’re right? It seems obvious that these are similar kinds of moves, so why would a player negotiate for a right to block one kind of move but not the other?

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        • Avery says:

          I think that you’re both right. Players with no-trade clauses can reject trades that happen through revocable waiver claims, or that the team arranges if the player clears revocable waivers.

          However, if the team subsequently chooses to put the player on irrevocable waivers and another team claims them, they can give the player away to the claiming team without the player’s consent (but they receive nothing in return).

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        • Ed says:

          We call them “no trade” clauses, but they’re really “no assignment” clauses. It basically blocks any means of assigning the player to another roster. The only way to get the player off the 25 man roster without his consent is to give him an unconditional release.

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      • grant says:

        I think that’s correct. No links, but have heard it elsewhere and would make sense. Otherwise waiver claims would undermine the no trade clause. Whole point is for player to be able to control where he plays, must be in CBA.

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      • pft says:

        I thought the player would just have the option of refusing the assignment to a team he did not like who claimed him, then his old team is on the hook for the balance owed, and he can be a free agent.

        Hard to get any good links on this topic though, It does seem the player should have some say on where he ends up if he has a NTC or 10/5 rights

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        • Anon21 says:

          “I thought the player would just have the option of refusing the assignment to a team he did not like who claimed him, then his old team is on the hook for the balance owed, and he can be a free agent.”

          This just seems like an error in the other direction. In an ordinary non-waiver trade situation, can the player opt to become a free agent while still being guaranteed his contractual salary if his team approaches him with a trade that he has the right to block, and he decides to block it? If not, why would that be the case for waivers?

          A no-trade clause (a misnomer, if Mike is wrong about this waiver matter, which I think he is) is simply the player’s right to approve or veto any assignment of his contractual duties to one or more clubs. I can’t imagine why exercising that right would result in a release of the player’s contractual duties to the original club.

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  2. Jason B says:

    What, wait? I thought John Niese was going to land Tulo and/or Carlos Gonzalez!

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    • LHPSU says:

      The proof of an idiot is that he won’t realize it even if you slapped him with his own stupidity.

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    • Nicolas says:

      Comment of the day right here

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    • vivalajeter says:

      I wonder how many teams would take Tulowitzki on a straight waiver claim, now that he just has surgery to repair the labrum in his hip. Isn’t this the same type of issue that A-rod had a few years back, and never fully recovered from? With his contract, his injury history, his new injury (which seems pretty major), and turning 30, would teams take his $100+MM contract as a salary dump at this point? He’s clearly an elite player while healthy, but that’s a big qualifier at this point.

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      • BMac says:

        Chase Utley had the surgery in 2008, and had a fabulous year in 2009. A-Rod’s decades of steroid use make him a poor model for comparison, but he still hit 30 hrs after the surgery.

        Both Utley & A-Rod fell off rapidly after that, but is that because of the surgery, or just middle infielders getting old?

        And, of course, Tulo is a middle infielder who is getting old. As a fantasy owner, I hope I can get that one more good season that Utley & A-Rod delivered.

        And, I think as a baseball GM, I would make that waiver claim. It would take more than labrum surgey to make me worry. That being said, this contract was heavily back-loaded, with the Rockies enjoying years of cheap production from him. Hopefully they were saving up those extra pennies…

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  3. Heitor says:

    Well, that is not surprising. But good analysis of his struggles.

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  4. Atreyu Jones says:

    Almost all big free agent contracts couldn’t be given away for free soon after they were signed – it’s almost a tautology.

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    • Andrew says:

      Likely has something to do with the fact that if another team valued a given player at or above the deal they recently signed, they would have signed them to it or one better themselves.

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      • Blarugh says:

        True, but a big deterrent is the number of years. If McCann had a good season, 4 years $70 million would fit a lot more budgets. It’s usually the extra year that puts the winning team over the top.

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      • Jose Abreu says:

        Hola.

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        • Jose Abreu says:

          (Yes, I recognize that his is a different situation and is for less money. But it’s probably the biggest contract signed last year that all 29 other teams would love to take on.)

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        • Atreyu Jones says:

          Yes, he is the exception of last offseason’s crop. But I would think that the other big contracts – Choo, Ellsbury, and even Tanaka – would not be claimed.

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      • B N says:

        This. Plus, free agent deals tend to be structured on the premise of “Get good value in early years, pay too much for later years.” Almost any long-term deal for a true FA is going to have worse value/year, unless the player somehow plays vastly better or the market has major inflation.

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    • Dom says:

      Exactly. The players signed the contracts they did because it was the highest offer. When it comes to players who signed last winter, it really doesn’t matter how well they perform this year. No one else was willing to pay Robinson Cano $240mm and nobody would claim him this year despite his success.

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      • LaLoosh says:

        that’s due to the length of the commitment. I think a bunch of teams would be ok with the $24M per tho over a hotter length.

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      • pft says:

        Yankees might consider it. Not signing Cano may have cost them the playoffs this year and 70 million dollars for not making the playoffs (from WSJ). Thats the amount Cano would make in his last 3 years of the contract in inflated dollars

        I mean, the guy is arguably having an MVP year . Not the player Trout is but does anyone think the Mariners would be in the playoff race without Cano

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        • Eric R says:

          “Thats the amount Cano would make in his last 3 years of the contract in inflated dollars”

          With the luxury tax Cano would cost them like $36M per year and significantly increase the chances that they don’t get below the threshold in the near future…


          The $70M figure is based on going how deep into the post-season?

          Cano is at 4.9 fWAR and Yankees 2Bs 0.6. Lets say the Yankees get about +4.5 wins to date with Cano, that still puts them 2 games out of the division, five games out of the WildCard home game and up 2.5 games for the second wildcard.

          So given that–
          2 games out of the AL East gives them maybe a 25% chance there? And lets say 35% for the second wildcard and 10% for the first wildcard?

          Based on those estimates, to make the ALDS, I get a 46% chance, then about 23% to make the ALCS and 12% to the WS. Which all work out to a weighted average 4.0 post-season games– lets say two at YS and two on the road. From those leaked financials a couple of years ago, I though a play-off game was worth like $2-3M. For the $70M estimate, those games at Yankee Stadium would have to be worth 10-15x as much…?

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    • Andy says:

      Reminds me of that old truism that once you drive the car out of the dealership it drops, what, something like 20-30% in value.

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    • Torgen says:

      This is why the Jays/Marlins trade was such a disaster for the Jays. Because they were paying above market for Buehrle and Reyes (because they didn’t get the cheap first year of those contracts), they were basically paying a ton of young players (plus Yunel Escobar, who was persona not-very-much grata for his eyeblack shenanigans but was fairly cheap and one year off a ~4 win season) for one year of Josh Johnson.

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      • red says:

        Toronto is a different situation though as many free agents wont sign there for any ammount of money

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        • Jason B says:

          Are we sure of that though? As in, have there been instances of players turning down significant money offered by Toronto and taking less to play elsewhere?

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    • JT says:

      The first rule of Tautology Club is the first rule of Tautology Club!

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  5. Bat says:

    As a Mets fan, I struggle to understand why surgery hasn’t been more seriously as an option for Niese. His velocity has greatly diminished and he doesn’t seem healthy.

    I’m sure the Mets are interested in protecting their investment and have had highly-qualified doctors review his medicals, conduct physicals and MRIs, etc., but something just doesn’t seem right with him when his velocity has declined so much at such a young age.

    I believe he has a torn labrum or something like that, but again I don’t understand the decision to pitch through this the entire year when his results have been so bad and the Mets are going nowhere.

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    • Bill says:

      Shoulders suck. I’m thinking the lack of interest may well be related to the fear of the fabrum bear. The list of guys coming back from this to what they were is short.

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      • Jhonny Manzana seed says:

        Fabrum bear attacks are the worst, and should rightfully be feared by any smart baseball player who happens to be in the woods.

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        • D says:

          Makes a lot of sense why no teams claimed him.
          Adverse selection – if he is injured, and the Mets know about it, the claiming team is screwed. If he isn’t, then Mets won’t give him up.

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        • vivalajeter says:

          Well said, D. That was my thinking as well. It’s kind of pointless to put in a claim when you know the team won’t give him away for free (and more than likely isn’t looking to trade him in a 1:1 deal), and in the unlikely event that his shoulder is toast, you’re screwed. There’s really no upside in the waiver claim.

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  6. Person says:

    Is 4 months enough to change the perception of a contract (which is possible considering year 1 should be the most likely year to accumulate surplus value), or was there an flaw with DC’s listing from this offseason

    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/brian-mccann-probably-couldnt-be-given-away-for-free/

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    • AK7007 says:

      “which is possible considering year 1 should be the most likely year to accumulate surplus value”

      You answered your own question

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      • Person says:

        Yeah, I gave two options, and one of them was it. Unless you are suggesting the latter is inconceivable.

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        • Iron says:

          Most of the projections were wrong about McCann. This does not mean they were necessarily flawed. I.e. the projections would be accurate more often than not given a player with similar attributes. However, if an accurate projection projects 100 players, 50 of them will do worse and a few percent, as here, will do much worse.

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  7. FuriousToaster says:

    When McCann gets to spend a month with the same 5 pitchers, I’ll start to worry about how he’s batting.

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    • Andrew says:

      How very nonchalant, world-weary and unimpressed of you. And absolutely asinine.

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      • LaLoosh says:

        why is it that some people can help themselves but to jump right into attacking someone who dares to say something they may not agree with? try using the same decorum you’d use if speaking to someone in person…

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        • Jason B says:

          It was rather uncouth, but his overall point (that you can’t just ignore or discard a catcher’s batting stats entirely regardless of how good he is at receiving, framing, defense, etc) is completely correct.

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        • LaLoosh says:

          *can’t.

          Please add an edit function!

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        • LaLoosh says:

          I think he was making a point – which is that some people are overreacting to what has been a bad partial season. Carlos Beltran had an awful 1st year with the Mets.

          I don’t know how appropriate it is to judge an entire 5 yr contract after 4+ months.

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        • Antonio Bananas says:

          Good thing the article looked at long term trends then.

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        • Jason B says:

          I think “we may be too hasty in judging this contract” is fair, perhaps, but “we’re going to ignore offense entirely because framing! And defense!” is not.

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        • FuriousToaster says:

          I didn’t suggest any of that… no one is saying to ignore offense in favor of framing and defense.

          The actual point of my post was that the Yankee staff has seen so many injuries and replacements that McCann has been learning and working with new pitchers basically every week of the season. He has had little time to focus on his hitting, and it has clearly suffered. I don’t care about his offensive struggles right now, because he has been doing a great job handling this revolving door pitching staff. Maybe next year if 4 of the 5 opening day starters don’t get hurt, he’ll have some more time to hit off a tee and work on his swing.

          There are plenty of other problems with the Yankee offense, McCann’s struggles shouldn’t be as important as they seem.

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    • Bill says:

      As an Oriole’s fan, I agree with you completely and I hope you have Cashman’s ear. As McCann’s resurgence has made Cervelli superfluous, what say you get Brian to trade him to Baltimore for some career minor leaguer?

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    • pft says:

      Whats he doing with his pitchers that gets them injured? Called too many splits for Tanaka.

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  8. Cliff says:

    Well he’s been worth close to 2 WAR already just from defense and framing.

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    • Bill says:

      If this isn’t evidence that catcher WAR is overrated, I don’t know what is. It’s better to compare apples to apples, in this case. He’s been as valuable in 406 at bats as Caleb Joseph has been in 190 at bats.

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      • Costanza says:

        I don’t think framing is included in WAR, so for you to indict catcher WAR because of what Cliff said… is you responding to a made up stat, call it “Cliff WAR”, and trying to condemn catcher WAR with it.

        Down with CliffWAR!

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        • Cliff says:

          It’s not, but it easily can be since the runs saved from framing are available. The link from this article shows that McCann has saved over 8 runs with his framing. Add that to his 1.2 fWAR (entirely from defense) and you have over 2 WAR already.

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        • munchtime says:

          Only if you think that available “runs saved from framing” stat is accurate.

          I remain skeptical of a stat that indicates one particular skill (pitch framing) is significantly more valuable than any other baseball skill. If “runs saved from framing” is accurate, the top 6 defensive players (and 12 of the top 20) in baseball are all catchers.

          It would also mean that Miguel Montero is a top 15 player in baseball, and more valuable to the Diamondbacks than Paul Goldschmidt. And Jonathan Lucroy is the most valuable player in baseball by a healthy margin.

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        • Cliff says:

          Nonsense. Pitch framing is worth at most +/- 2 WAR. And it is in play on every single pitch of every single game. And it is a skill that only catchers have. So logically catchers, who have to hit and field like any other player but ALSO receive pitches, have more impact on the game than other position players.

          What reason is there to be skeptical? Have you read the research?

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        • munchtime says:

          I have read the research. I don’t believe their numbers are accurate. The pitch framing link provided in the article indicates that pitch framing can be worth 4.5 WAR, or more, for the elite. Given that you believe pitch framing to be worth roughly 2 WAR at most, you don’t believe the research either.

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    • pft says:

      You can get no hit C with good defense and framing for much less than McCann makes. McCann was paid for his bat.

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      • Cliff says:

        The purpose of WAR is to compare players that have different skillsets. Do you mean “lots of catchers have over 2 WAR so far and get paid less”? It’s not clear to me if that is true or not but 2 WAR is about an average player. My point was, it could be a lot worse.

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  9. Gabes says:

    My absolute first though upon clicking this article was “My White Sox would sure take on McCann for just his salary” and then I saw his line next to Flowers…wowsers that looks like a bad deal.

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  10. Dave Cornutt says:

    I’ll bet the Braves are secretly thanking their lucky stars right now. They’re already stuck with two bad contracts; three would just about wipe out their payroll.

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  11. Frigidevil says:

    Is it possible that Yankee Stadium does more to hurt pull hitters than help them? Obviously having a shorter distance to the wall means you have a better chance to hit a home run, but it also means there’s less ground for fielders to cover in right field. If you have the RF playing deep and the 1B, 2B and SS/3B all in shallow right field, there’s not much room to squeeze a hit in there. A short porch just means the distance between a deep RF and the extra infielder helping in shallow right is decreased.

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    • just me says:

      I’ve looked at this some… you can find “hit location” splits data on BBRef… both for teams, and individuals.

      Here’s the Yankees 2014 data:
      http://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/split.cgi?team=NYY&t=b&year=2014#hitlo

      This season, the RHB pulled BA is .381, LHB pulled BA is .351, but the power increase on balls pulled to RF (by LHBs) more than makes up for it (OPS is higher for LHB pulling to RF). OPS has been higher for LHB pulling to RF for the last 3 years. BA difference was less last season, and the opposite the year before (Cano effect?).

      BTW, McCann is hitting .341 on “pulled hits” this season. And .333 on “opp field” hits. And just .233 on “up middle” hits.

      So, no. The “short porch” isn’t hurting his average (relative to other fields).

      By “trajectory” splits, he is hitting:
      .622 on line drives.
      .169 on flyballs.
      .150 on groundballs.

      His problem is he’s not hitting enough line drives. Not that he’s getting robbed of hits by the short RF.

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  12. Thor says:

    It’s astounding to me that major league hitters hit so poorly against the pull shift. The easiest thing to do as a hitter is simply drop the barrel of the bat on the ball and hit it the opposite way. If there is only one infielder on that side of the field, it doesn’t even have to be hit that hard to make it through. I understand that pitchers pitch these guys inside to get them to pull it. BUT STAND BACK OFF THE PLATE A LITTLE SO THAT IF THEY COME INSIDE, IT’S A BALL, AND IF IT’S OVER THE PLATE YOU DRIVE IT THE OTHER WAY. I would think that a couple of months of hitting .400 against the shift would either: a) stop the shift; or b) win you a batting crown. “Oh, but the homeruns …” Who cares!?!?!? If you hit like Wade Boggs or Tony Gwynn managers love you, pitchers hate you, and you end up in the Hall of Fame. “If it were that easy, smart ass, don’t you think they would do it?” No. They are baseball players. As much as I love to watch them, I wouldn’t trust them to solve very meaningful puzzles. I once broke my top hand playing in a tournament in college, but didn’t really tell anyone. I went 4 for 4 after breaking my hand, all by simply spraying the ball the other way with one hand. That’s the thing, to go the other way, you get close to 25% longer to get the bat on the ball and, therefore, can make adjustments during the pitch, even if the pitcher throws you something you don’t expect. I can hear the New Yorkers now, “Yeah, but we paid #$@!#@%ing McCann to hit homeruns and hit in the middle of the @#$@#ing order!” If McCann were hitting .350 but with only 6 homeruns, he would still be hitting in the middle of the @#$$!@$@#ing order and driving in runs. But that’s just it with McCann, right? He’s all about the inflexible unwritten rules in baseball. Don’t show up the pitcher on a home run (especially if your names ends with a “Z”), etc., etc. Somehow an unwritten rule has developed not to go the other way against the shift — which is the stupidest unwritten rule in the history of unwritten rules. Why isn’t there an unwritten rule that says it’s not fair to put all 9 defenders on the right side of second base? Regardless, he is not demonstrating the kind of mental flexibility that someone who is getting paid $16M to hit baseballs should demonstrate in my opinion. Look, I used to like McCann and early in his career thought he was a very good hitter and a tough out. Now, though, I bet pitchers are glad to see him saunter up to the batting box. Pound him inside, let him hit into the shift, and he’ll just get himself out. Pretty simple, actually. My soapbox just broke, so I’ve got to get off it now.

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    • Anon21 says:

      “The easiest thing to do as a hitter is simply drop the barrel of the bat on the ball and hit it the opposite way.”

      A) As you immediately go on to note, major-league pitchers, who aren’t slouches, are going to attempt to make this very difficult to do.

      B) If you’ve been doing something for 15 or 20 years and have only muscle memory to fall back on, how easy is it really to simply stop doing what you’ve always done?

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    • Anon21 says:

      I blame you for not initially making it through that wall of text.

      “As much as I love to watch them, I wouldn’t trust them to solve very meaningful puzzles.”

      Would you trust them to know how to play the game that they are ridiculously good at? If not, why should the rest of us accept your self-nomination as Solver of Baseball Puzzles?

      “I went 4 for 4 after breaking my hand, all by simply spraying the ball the other way with one hand.”

      Awesome. The pitchers and defenders you did that against washed out of rookie league, if they were really lucky.

      ” But that’s just it with McCann, right? He’s all about the inflexible unwritten rules in baseball. … Somehow an unwritten rule has developed not to go the other way against the shift — which is the stupidest unwritten rule in the history of unwritten rules.”

      Bullshit. It just isn’t as easy to execute as you glibly assert. And if you’d read the article, you’d know that McCann is actually going the other way more often–he’s just not able to execute it consistently enough to be a good hitter.

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    • questlove says:

      Yeah, I totally read all of that. Your insight on the… stuff… was great, please become a regular contributor.

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    • Dave Cornutt says:

      Later in his career, Dale Murphy tried that approach: standing way off the plate to try to hit more the other way. However, once he started doing it, curve balls on the outside ate him alive. I think it was a factor in his rapid decline after 1986 — every pitcher in the league knew how to get him out.

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  13. Carlos JoFer Gomez says:

    At least he plays the fucking game the right way.

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  14. IceHawk-181 says:

    I honestly do not understand this article.

    “To his credit, McCann appears to be trying to adapt, not only by going the other way, but by changing his mechanics to eliminate a toe tap from his swing in June, which has had some effect, but not enough of one.”

    April 1st to June 30th: 0.229 BABIP / 0.286 wOBA / 77 wRC+
    July 1st to Present: 0.289 BABIP / 0.324 wOBA / 103 wRC+

    “Unfortunately, McCann will need to improve considerably just to get back to being a league-average hitter…” (looks at post-June #s, wonders why Mike did not)

    McCann is certainly not playing at the top of his game but this article is rather short-sighted.

    Not to mention…what does his $85MM work out to in a WAR sense?

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  15. Michael says:

    McCann is surely having a poor year. However, he was a consensus top free agent in last year’s free agent market. Not too many people were reeling in horror over his contract, when it was signed. Keith Law said it was “one of the most sensible agreements of the offseason.” Maybe the Yankees and most everyone was wrong, but I think we might want to wait a bit before calling it a day on him. Or a career

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  16. Rick says:

    The fangraphs article “The Yankees and McCann: A Perfect Match” looks a little less great now. So does Cool Lester Smooth’s condescending attack of anybody who disagreed with the deal:

    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/the-yankees-and-mccann-a-perfect-match/

    I like Cool Lester Smooth’s: “Chris Stewart sucks at blocking pitches and at throwing runners out. That’s not even getting into the fact that McCann’s offense is, in fact, worth about 3 more wins than Stewart’s.”

    Just because somebody uses the word fact twice in a sentence, doesn’t make it a fact. Evidently.

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    • Wobatus says:

      There were also a huge number of down votes for folks who argued that Salty would be a better deal, even correctly saying he’d sign for 1/4 of the deal McCann got (although over 3 years not 5). That may just have been luck as far as their relative worth’s thus far (Salty 1.4 McCann 1.2) but a better gauge of how the market would value Salty, who admittedly isn’t all that good but at least he’s not been a waste of money, thus far. McCann I think could bounce back for a season of about 3-3.5 WAR next year (just extrapolating his ROS), and that doesn’t include framing I guess, but he will have a hard time sustaining, given the amount of wear and tear he’s gone through.

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    • Cool Lester Smooth says:

      Sup.

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  17. DNA+ says:

    Yankee fans are pretty accustomed to new players taking a little while to adjust to playing in New York. Lots of players struggle when they first come in: Clemens, Giambi, Tino Martinez, Arod, Randy Johnson, Kevin Brown, just to name a few. Some never get used to the scrutiny. Others adjust. Hopefully McCann can play to his ability when he gets used to being in the fishbowl.

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  18. nicknowsky says:

    As big Yankee fan that’s now dubbed him Busty McCants…this piece was great

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  19. Fardbart says:

    There a a bunch of Yankees who could not be given away… Arod, Jeter, Ellsbury, McCann, Tex, Sabathia, are all clearly being way overpaid and contributing little or nothing. And I’m probably forgetting some.

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  20. Grace says:

    McCann is probably my all time favorite Brave player. However, I thought it was smart of the team to let him go. He came up to the majors at a very young age and has a lot of mileage on him for a catcher. He also had that major shoulder injury a couple of years ago and he hasn’t been the same hitter since. I really do hope that Mac turns it around and has a solid finish to his career.

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  21. John C says:

    That was a dumb contract from the moment that the Yankees handed it to him. McCann was already a high-mileage catcher when he hit free agency; most catchers hit the wall between 1,000 and 1,200 career games caught, and McCann was already showing clear signs of decline in Atlanta.

    The Yankees would be wise to let him go on waivers if someone claimed him, but another team would have to be incredibly stupid to take on that contract. He still has positive value now, as a .235 hitter, because of his defense, but what about two years from now, when he’s a .183 hitter? Then you’re paying $17MM a year for David Ross, and that’s just nuts.

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  22. Rallyk says:

    The headline is attention-grabbing, but this is not that big of a deal. If a team wanted McCann at around this price, they could have had him last offseason. Since contracts are backloaded, you would expect any player who struggled this early in a contract to have issues with contract value. Also, you would expect the Yankees to have this happen more often since they often pay top dollar in free agency. The “man bites dog” story would be if the opposite of this were true. Can anyone think of a recent free agent the Yankees signed who had positive trade value a year later?

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