Appreciating Brian McCann’s defense

Brian McCann's defense has been elite this season. (Photo credit:

Brian McCann’s defense has been elite this season. (Photo credit:

Brian McCann‘s struggles at the plate are well-documented and represent a real problem for the offensively-starved Yankees.

Yet you cannot ignore the fact that he’s quietly putting together one of the best defensive seasons among catchers this season, and the success of the Yankees pitching staff owes a great deal of credit to the work by McCann behind the plate.

Pitch Framing
Thanks to the terrific research by Baseball Prospectus’ Dan Brooks and Harry Pavlidis, we can now quantify the impact of catcher pitch framing and blocking. This is measured in both raw numbers (extra strikes gained and passed balls/wild pitches prevented), along with runs saved via framing and blocking.

According to this method, McCann has been the best defensive catcher in terms of framing pitches this season, with 11.3 framing runs saved. He has gained 73.5 extra strikes when behind the plate, second only to Miguel Montero among all catchers.… Click here to read the rest

Does Pitch Framing Make Brian McCann the Yankee MVP?

Baseball defense is hard to measure. Catcher defense is even harder. There are a lot of different aspects of catcher defense, including:

  1. Controlling the running game
  2. Actually fielding the ball
  3. Preventing passed balls and wild pitches
  4. Pitch framing and umpire psychology
  5. Game-calling and pitcher psychology

For the longest time, #1 was all we looked in stats like WAR. #2 a comparatively small part of the game while also being difficult to measure. #5 is anyone’s guess. Some work has been on #3, but I’m not sold on it yet. That leaves us with #4: getting umpires to call balls as strikes, and strikes as strikes.

Measuring pitch framing is actually pretty easy. We have Pitch/Fx data about where a ball ended up. We have a good idea of where the strike zone should be. Therefore, we can count up pretty large sample sizes of called strikes that should be balls, and called balls that should be strikes. Do the math, and you know how many more strikes a catcher was able to call versus the average.… Click here to read the rest

Lots of Backup Catcher Options

Last season, the Yankees catchers position was among the worst in all of MLB. Collectively Yankee catchers hit .213/.287/.298/.585 with a 61 wRC+ and a .266 wOBA.

The Yankees solved that problem for this season by signing Brian McCann. McCann is one of the best all around catchers in MLB and should be able to take advantage of the short porch in right field. Also, he should be a good leader going forward in a time when the Yankees will be looking for new leaders.

McCann will be a huge upgrade over Chris Stewart and as long as he stays healthy he will be a key cog in the middle of the order. Austin Romine, J.R. Murphy and Francisco Cervelli are three intriguing options to backup McCann. This will be one of the key battles to watch in spring training.

Cervelli is the only one of the three without minor league options, so if he loses the job he becomes trade bait.… Click here to read the rest

Searching For Catchers On The Trade Market

Aside from Russell Martin and AJ Pierzynski, this year’s free agent market was completely bare of starting catchers. It made the Yankees’ decision to let Martin leave for Pittsburgh confusing. Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart are hardly starting-caliber catchers, and Austin Romine‘s health and ability are questionable. The team has stated multiple times that 2013’s catcher will likely be an in house option, but what could they reasonably obtain in the trade market?

Scott Cunningham/Getty Images North America

Brian McCann: Before turning 28 years old, McCann was a six time All Star with the Atlanta Braves. Last season, McCann battled injuries, and his typical .800+ OPS fell to .698. In October, McCann underwent shoulder surgery, and although he’s believed to be ready for opening day, his value has taken a big hit. As of this offseason, the Braves have listened to offers on the catcher, but are said to be asking for a decent haul.

For the Yankees, McCann’s left-handed power swing projects well in Yankee Stadium.… Click here to read the rest

Players to Watch: N.L. East

Let’s end our week with an eye towards the Right Coast and the N.L. teams that inhabit it. You know the drill.

NL West
NL Central

Starting, as we so normally do, at the top with the Phillies. Let’s go with t3h 4 @ce$! shall we? No. The obvious choice here is Dominic Brown. He’s the Phillies’ top prospect and is the likely replacement for the departed Jayson Werth. Brown struggled in a brief 70 PA stint in the bigs last year, wOBAing just .259 and striking out 38.7% of the time. Brown will be 23 when the season starts and won’t be 24 until September so time is still on his side. Can he cash in on his big prospect status in 2011 or will fans think he’s not WERTH it?!

Atlanta Braves: No more Bobby Cox. That phrase alone is enough to shake my baseball-self to its core. I haven’t known a time in my baseball-life that doesn’t include Bobby Cox.… Click here to read the rest