A predictable thing happens when you don’t look at a player’s statline for a while; it changes. As the year goes on, those changes get less drastic as plate appearances rack up and their results have minimal impact on rate stats like BA, OBP, SLG, wOBA, etc. And though May is about to end, we’re still early enough that things can change pretty drastically if you don’t look for a while. Of course, it helps if you end the month on a big time power surge, hitting homers in four of the last five games like Brian McCann has.
After his home run streak, not including last night’s game, the McCannibal’s season line sits at .253/.319/.473 with a .339 wOBA and a 115 wRC+. The last time I looked at McCann’s line, his wRC+ was stuck somewhere in the high 80s. While the average, OBP, and wOBA are below his career lines, his 115 wRC+ is actually one point above his career mark. That places him third in the AL among qualified catchers in terms of wRC+. There are only four qualifiers at catcher in the AL this year–McCann, Stephen Vogt (184!); Russell Martin (133); and Salvador Perez (106)–and they’re all hitting pretty well. The average AL catcher (not including McCann’s numbers) is putting up a .293 wOBA this year, so not only is McCann above the league average at the plate this year, he’s also obliterating what all but three other catchers in the AL are doing.
If we take a look at the gamelogs, the fifth month of the year was a tale of two Mays for McCann. From May 1 to May 24, McCann reached base just 20 times in 77 PAs and his line was pretty ugly: .203/.260/.319/.579. Then, to end the month, he absolutely exploded and hit homers in four straight games from the 25th to the 29th, raising his monthly line to .244/.319/.488/.807. In April, he hit .266/.319/.453, so May was slightly better, thanks to the home run binge. Now, that binge “taints” what was a bad May, but we can’t pretend it didn’t happen, so let’s hop on over to Brooks Baseball and investigate something that helped McCann get to where he is now.
In April , McCann saw mostly fastballs and, for the most part, he handled them. He hit .333 against them with a .482 slugging percentage (.148 ISo, .348 BABIP), including one homer. He’s continued that in May, though in a slightly different manner. His .304 average against heaters is a big drop off, but he’s smacking them around and out of the park more: .870 SLG; .565 ISO; four home runs–two of those came in the stretch from the 25-29th, two of them didn’t.
Looking farther down on that chart, you’ll notice a big improvement against sliders. Opponents threw just 40 sliders to McCann in April, and he didn’t do a lot with them. He hit just .125 against them with a .000 ISO. In May, opponents must have picked up on his April struggles against the pitch, and challenged McCann with sliders, throwing him 65. Against sliders this month, McCann has hit .267 with three singles and a home run. The sample isn’t huge, but it does show some recognition of a problem that McCann adjusted to this month.
McCann’s tenure in pinstripes has been odd for sure. Taking the long view, he’s hit well for a catcher and despite some blocking troubles this season, has been more than fine behind the plate. Still, there’s a sense that McCann isn’t doing as well as he could be or that he’s somehow not living up to the lofty expectations we hoisted onto him when he signed with the team prior to last year. The McCann we’ve seen so far is probably the McCann we’re going to see going forward–some ugly stretches and some bursts of power–and that’s okay. Catchers, like always, are hitting poorly in 2015 and McCann is more than likely to outpace what the average AL catcher puts out; adding in his solid defense and that’s something we can be happy with going forward.