Brian McCann: a catching tradition revitalized

Kevin C. Cox

After a season of catcher production that would disappoint an expansion team, the Yankees get one of the best in the game.

When people think of the signature position to play for the New York Yankees, center fielder is the one that seems to be mentioned most frequently. After all, it's the position that has been manned by such greats as Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and Bernie Williams, among others. But it may be the position of catcher that most symbolizes the Yankees' success over nearly a full century. For what has been a traditionally difficult position to field great players, the Yankees have been privileged to have many.

Obviously that last statement need not apply to the 2013 season. In what will go down as nothing short of an embarrassment to a franchise that has had two Hall of Famers behind the plate be enshrined in pinstripes, the four Yankee catchers managed to combine for a 61 wRC+ last year. Going without an established catcher will go down as one of the front office's bigger mistakes in recent memory. That's all in the past though, as Brian McCann brings the sort of credentials that rival Yankees catchers of yesteryear Let's look at four of the most famous ones.

Through Age 29 season:

Player

BA

OBP

SLG

HR

OPS+

McCann

.277

.350

.473

176

117

Munson

.289

.349

.411

86

120

Posada

.268

.369

.465

85

115

Berra

.296

.354

.497

181

130

Dickey

.321

.373

.493

98

126

I opted to leave out Elston Howard as he got his starting opportunity even later than Posada did. But as you can see, McCann's career thus far holds up quite well when put up against four of the best offensive catchers of all time. Throw in his seven All-Star appearances and nearly 30 accumulated fWAR, and the Yankees have acquired a player that may very well join Berra and Dickey in the Hall of Fame. Not that it has any bearing on his future success with the team, but having that sort of resume compared to that of the likes of Chris Stewart should bring a smile to your face.

When comparing McCann to those former greats, it's also of interest to see how they fared as they hit the year-30 plateau, since McCann will be under contract for at least five years.

Year 30 season and beyond:

Player

BA

OBP

SLG

HR

OPS+

Posada

.276

.376

.478

198

124

Berra

.272

.341

.466

177

120

Dickey

.302

.392

.478

104

127

Munson's career was obviously tragically cut short, but he had a 107 OPS+ in his three seasons. While the wear and tear on catchers is always a concern, it seems there is precedent in the truly elite hitters still maintaining their effectiveness well into their thirties. It may not be the prime years of McCann's career, but he should still be quite good.

It's a proud tradition that Brian McCann now has become a part of. It certainly comes with high expectations, but his past success paints him as a player that should be more than capable of adding to that tradition. And with at least $85 million coming his way, he's certainly expected to.

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