The New York Yankees are closing in on a return to the postseason. After yesterday's win, Fangraphs has the team with 99.9% odds of playing October baseball the first time since 2012. A strong effort for a team not projected as a postseason favourite to begin with, and hasn't been helped by multiple injuries all through the way to key players; Jacoby Ellsbury, Mark Teixeira, and Nathan Eovaldi have all gone down when among the team leaders in WAR at some point during the season. It's been a case of next man up all through 2015, and a big part of the Yankees continued success has been current WAR leader Brian McCann.
McCann is not only heading up Yankee position players but he is also among the best catchers in baseball. He leads all American League catchers in wins above replacement with 3.3 WAR on the year, and is third in the league. McCann has been producing on both ends, showing his hitting chops in placing fourth on the catcher weighted runs created board with 113 wRC+, there second in the AL behind Oakland's catcher-first baseman Stephen Vogt. A big part of McCann's value also comes from the defensive end where Fangraphs rates him sixth on the strength of his pitch-blocking and throwing out baserunners.
Catcher framing doesn't factor into this, an area where McCann has traditionally done well but might be moving into the middle of the pack this season. A lot of McCann's value here isn't captured in the numbers though. From helping Nathan Eovaldi grow accustomed to relying on his split-fingered fastball, to easing in the rookie class of pitchers featuring Luis Severino and a host of young relief talent, McCann has been a rock all year for a team in need of a stabilising presence. Last month, Scott took a look at a potential approach change that may have helped McCann rebound from an unspectacular 2014. Indeed, a fifty point jump in slugging, and a forty point increase in ISO this season backs the idea of McCann having more success driving the ball over the shift.
What has been impressive is his how slump-proof he has been all year, posting wRC+ figures above 100 in all months except July where he was only just below average at 88 wRC+. Fellow key contributors to the lineup in Alex Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran have both had significant unproductive spells, and with Teixeira now hurt the team hasn't had a lot of consistency in the middle of the lineup. McCann has been that regular presence, and has done it from the catcher position where teams often struggle for any level of offensive credibility.
As the team heads toward the postseason, the Yankees will continue to lean heavily on Brian McCann. The catcher, in his second season with the club, will hopefully have a chance to write himself into team folklore with a strong postseason as part of a deep Yankee run. Certainly, for the team to have success in October McCann will need to serve as a key contributor both in shepherding the pitching staff and hitting at the core of the lineup.