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2010 Season in Review: Brian McCann

Written by Joe Lucia on .

It was another All-Star, Silver Slugger type season for Brian McCann in 2010 upon first glance, but when you dig a tad bit deeper, his 2010 season was unlike any other he's had in his career. As I mentioned, he once again made the All-Star team (as a reserve, yet again), and ended up winning the MVP award and driving the National League to their firs win since 1996 with a bases loaded double that gave the NL a lead they wouldn't relinquish. McCann also won yet another Silver Slugger award, but that was more by default, since the only other catcher worth a damn in the NL, Buster Posey, spent about a month at first base and wasn't called up from AAA until the season was two months old. Posey will be firm competition for McCann next year.

So hearing all that, you'd assume that 2010 was another smashing success for McCann, right? Well, my opinions are mixed on that one. On the bright side, McCann's walk rate improved to a rate he's never even sniffed in his major league career, hitting 13.1%. His previous career high was 9.9%, set in his stellar 2008 year. There is another side of the coin to that improved walk rate: an increased strikeout rate, as McCann whiffed in 20.5% of his at bats (his previous high was 14.7%). Now, was that increase because he was taking more pitches and stared at some borderline strikes, or was he hacking more at bad stuff? The answer is...both. McCann swung at pitches a career low 44.8% of the time, and the amount of pitches he swung at in the strike zone decreased to a career low 65.9%. Strangely, despite these decreases, he swung at a career high 30.2% of pitches OUTSIDE of the strike zone. This isn't making a lot of sense. He swung at less pitches overall, but the pitches he swung at less...were in the strike zone. I admire McCann for his commitment to improve his game, but the pitches you should be swinging at ARE STRIKES. You shouldn't be letting them run right by you, while you hack at balls outside the zone. But that's a little obvious, isn't it?

Now, here is where the plot thickens a little bit. McCann saw less pitches in the zone than he ever has. By far. The previous low amount of pitches in the zone he saw in his career was 48.1%. This season? 40.9%! That helps explain things a little more. McCann probably felt obligated to swing at those bad pitches because he was getting less and less good ones. That makes sense, with the garbage the Braves had in the 6-hole for most of the season. Who are you going to pitch to: one of the five best hitting catchers in the league, or a shortstop who struggled horribly this season? The sad thing is, I'm referring to two guys with that shortstop line in Yunel Escobar and Alex Gonzalez, both of whom hit behind McCann a good bit this season.

McCann's overall stats were some of his worst ever, as he posted his lowest career batting average and second lowest career slugging percentage (by a point). Yet, it's all fine because his .375 OBP was a new career high. McCann's season had nothing to do with luck, it had everything to do with protection. When you're followed in the lineup by some inept hitters, the switch in McCann's brain must have flipped and told him that he needed to do more hiimself. Things are going to be different in 2011, hopefully. I'd like to see a competent hitter follow McCann in the lineup. An effective Nate McLouth or Martin Prado (with McLouth leading off) would be a good bet. All of this assumes that, of course, Heyward-Chipper-Uggla-McCann is the 2-5 for the Braves lineup next season. There are a lot of things Fredi Gonzalez can do with it, and I'm curious to see what he's going to end up putting out there. If McLouth is able to keep his production at the level it was in September, the Braves could hit him and Martin Prado 1-2, and shift Jason Heyward lower in the lineup. The health of Chipper Jones is a big factor too, because if he's not going to play next season, now would be the time to slot Heyward in the 3-hole.

I think I've gone off topic enough for today. Expect bigger things in 2011 for McCann, and another All-Star berth. But he probably won't be starting...again.
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