When we last left Yankees esteemed new backstop Brian McCann here at PSA, Derek Albin asked if he was trying to do too much and Jesse Schindler noted he was going to the opposite field to beat the shift. We're about a week and a half removed from those two articles and McCann is hitting much worse than he was even then, which was already at a level below his career norms. It's certainly not for lack of trying as he even opted to drop down a bunt in an effort to get a hit yesterday night against the Angels. It failed and McCann put up an 0-4 day, when an "o'fer" seems to be more the usual for the former All Star than an aberration.
Here's a truly sobering comparison for you: Brian McCann's 62 wRC+ through 28 games in 2014 is only slightly superior to the 58 wRC+ that Chris Stewart posted in 2013. That's an extra month's worth of Stewie-esque offense that we've been cruelly subjected to even after his banishment. So while it's helpful that McCann may be the very best pitch framer in the league, the reason the Yankees brought him in for a significant chunk of change is because he's been one of the better offensive catchers in the league for many years. And the Yankees' sputtering offense desperately needs him to be one of the anchors in the middle of the order because there is not a lot of length to this lineup.
So what's wrong with McCann? Much has been made of what the shift is doing to his BABIP, which is over 60 points below his career average. But that misfortune on balls in play is being magnified by McCann's inability to draw walks. His career average BB% is 9.4, and he's currently sitting at 3.6%. And the percentage of pitches he's swinging at outside the zone (O Swing %) is 34.8%, which would be a new career high. So if nothing else, Brian needs to work a few more free passes and be more selective. Even if the shift continues to stymie him he should be getting on base through this avenue near his career averages.
Obviously it's frustrating for both the player and fans. After one of his four home runs, you assumed that he was going to wake himself from the hitting doldrums and go on a tear, but it just has not happened. Obviously a player with McCann's record deserves the benefit of the doubt for the time being, it's just the reasonable and logical thing to do. What is happening is that as the weeks of poor play pile up, it is becoming harder for McCann to turn in a season worthy of his contract and the expectations that came with it. His updated ZiPS projection has dropped him below a 100 wRC+, which would be a pretty significant disappointment in year one of McCann's deal. Just a quick string of quality hitting performances could turn it all around, so here's hoping one of them comes soon. Because the Yankees will probably have a lot more exercises in offensive futility in them, like last night, if he can't.