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Brian McCann's Struggles

After another 0-for-4 night to begin the weekend against the Nationals, Brian McCann has slid down to a level rarely seen from him.  His slashline is .230/.299/.391, good for an 85 wRC+.  In 2007, he had a similar rating this time of year before breaking out of that slump.  As surprising as it sounds, McCann has still been an above league-average player for the season, but that doesn’t mean the Braves shouldn’t be worried about a few trends.

His most glaring weakness this year is his .234 BABIP, well down from the .300 career figure.  A lot of people have attributed this to the constant shifts he now sees.  His BABIP on ground balls is just under .200 this year, compared to a previous BABIP around .220.  Out of 80 groundballs, that comes out to be about 2 less hits.  His fly ball BABIP is also a bit low, costing him 2-3 hits.

Line drives have been a bigger problem, posting a BABIP .175 points lower than his career average.  Out of the 33 line drives he’s hit, you’d expect about 6 more hits with his career LD BABIP.  However, going through the FOXSports Hit Chart, only two line outs looked to be affected by the shift, both of which were just right of second base.

A major change in his approach has also appeared.  After posting average to above-average swing rates in his career, McCann is now swinging about 5% less than average, despite seeing about the same amount of pitches in the zone.  Unfortunately, most of the extra pitches being taken are in the strike zone.  He is also making contact more often, 86% of swings compared to 82% last year.  A higher contact rate, especially on pitches out of the zone, is linked to a small decrease in BABIP, which makes sense, since balls out of the zone are tougher to hit hard.  McCann may be more inclined to take his early aggressive swings, more in line with the rest of his career.

There are other statistical oddities, such as his diverging Home/Road ISOs the past four seasons.  He’s also come apart after falling behind 0-2, posting a .075/.075/.100 line in 40 PA, compared to his career .180/.191/.289 line.  These really have no explanation, so they can’t be analyzed for improvement.  His line drive BABIP should start to correct itself some, while I think he should go back to his previous aggressive ways in his approach.

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  • FredOwens

    Nice insight. We haven’t heard of any injury and he certainly hasn’t looked hurt anywhere else so unless the rumor mill is avoiding him I think we can rule that out. My dad (through me of course) would say he’s not seeing the ball. That’s not an eye problem it’s a pitch recognition problem. he can’t decide if it’s a fastball, cutter, split or slider in the 1/10 of a second he has to make such a call. That explains not swinging at in-zone pitches – he simply thinks they are breaking balls and they aren’t they are fastballs and he swings and misses.  Higher K rate lower contact rate. 
    It also explains a lower line drive rate When you can’t identify the pitch your either swing too early and squib it off the end of the bat or swing  too late and hit it into the ground or pop it up.
    I suspect they’ve had him visit the eye doctor but if they haven’t they should. It could also be his mind is elsewhere. Life intrudes on even the best in the field when the mind can’t focus; ask Tiger Woods. Sadly sometimes the eyes go and can’t be fixed even at his young age. He’s already had multiple laser surgeries and various lens and glasses issues. I hope it’s just concern about whether the wife is pregnant or something like that. If it doesn’t change however his FA value drops like a rock and so do the chances that he Braves make him an offer.

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  • Maestro_Mike

    This just solidifies the general opinion that McCan will be gone when his free agent year approaches.

  • FredOwens

     @Maestro_Mike I don’t disagree. I might do it before then