Brian McCann inked a five-year, $85-million deal in the offseason with the New York Yankees, but it’s not just the money he has to be happy about. The move to pinstripes not only gives him more money than the Braves, his former team, could afford (or at least we thought), but also gives him a short porch to feast on.
McCann is a prime candidate for a huge home run season in 2014 - projecting 30 to 35 home runs is not unrealistic. How could a player with a career high of 24 home runs make such an improvement at the age of 30? Well, the notoriously short porch of Yankee Stadium should boost his home run totals dramatically.
Many have described McCann’s swing having pull-power, and they're exactly right. Even though he’s only played in 351 games over the past three seasons, he's hit 52 of his 64 home runs to right field. This ranks him seventh in the MLB during that span. Good thing for him, Yankee Stadium is 16 feet shorter down the right field foul line and five feet shorter in the gap versus Turner Field. Moreover, the home of the Yankees was the seventh-best place to hit at last season while Turner Field was 21st. When it comes to home runs, Yankee Stadium gave up 114 home runs to lefties besting Turner Field by 14. This is obviously due to the dimension differences between the two fields.
It's Not Just the Park
McCann playing in New York is just as much about playing in Yankee Stadium as it is about the teams he’ll be playing against 19 times. Baltimore and Toronto, AL East foes, ranked first and second in terms of home runs allowed last season. In addition, the best ranked team from the AL East was the Tampa Bay Rays coming in at 18th. Amazingly, in each of the last three seasons, the team that has given up the most home runs in baseball has been either the Blue Jays or the Orioles. Conversely, in 2013, NL East squads were great at limiting home runs as each team ranked 19th or lower.
Hitting in friendlier confines and against worse pitching is great, but it’s not all the AL East can offer McCann.
Brian McCann’s last two seasons with the Braves were injury riddled, but putting on the pinstripes allows him to do something he couldn’t do in Atlanta: DH. He can say goodbye to the constant wear and tear that comes with catching five and six days in a row. Now he can keep his legs fresh throughout the season without costing himself three or four at bats.
Last season’s 102 games played was his lowest since his rookie season. If you prorate his numbers to 150 games, he would have ended the season with 30 home runs. He struggled to reach his career batting average, but he made up for it with his best ISO (.205) since 2009. McCann put up some of his best power numbers in those 102 games, but a change of scenery might be what he needs to get his batting average back on track.
New League, No Problem
The move to New York raises the question of how well he will do against pitchers he has not seen before. When looking at his numbers, facing new pitchers doesn’t necessarily seem to pose a problem, but instead shows that he’s the one with the advantage.
McCann owns a career .303/.367/.535 triple slash in interleague play. In what would almost equate to a full season for a catcher, McCann has hit 24 home runs in 110 starts. More specifically, in 12 games last season during interleague play, McCann’s numbers were even better than that. He posted a triple slash line of .326/.408/.674 including five home runs. He did all of this with a BABIP of .281; eight points lower than this career average.
His BABIP is likely to never be high due to the amount of fly balls he hits, but even then, expecting another season of .261 BABIP is unlikely. He posted his best LD% since his rookie season, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he was unlucky in 2013 - his 4.4% drop in GB% could easily cause a lower BABIP. What makes me think he was unlucky is how previous seasons compare to 2013.
In McCann’s six seasons with a LD% of 20% or better, his BABIP was lower than .297 just once: 2013. Let’s take a look at his 2006 season where his batted ball numbers were extremely similar to 2013’s numbers, but the end results were much different.
While McCann produced comparable batted ball numbers in 2006 and 2013, his numbers were very different. His BABIP was 72 points higher, and subsequently his batting average was 77 points higher as well. Those drastic differences don’t prove that McCann will hit .332 again, but more show us that a boost in average should be expected.
Brian McCann in New York is the perfect fit for his offensive skill set. His pull-side power would only make more sense at Fenway Park, a place he’ll still play nine times this season. Because his abilities, the division he's playing in and his recent batting trends, I believe Brian McCann will improve in every major category, but most importantly will hit 30 to 35 home runs.