Results tagged ‘ Brian McCann ’

Ross could be Braves’ wild card on Friday


The Atlanta Braves need to win one game to continue their quest through the 2012 Postseason. That game comes on Friday against the St. Louis Cardinals at Turner Field and determines the National League’s true “Wild Card” under Major League Baseball’s new expanded playoffs.

On the surface, the decision to start backup catcher David Ross over All-Star stalwart Brian McCann seems unorthodox to say the least. It was certainly not a question of loyalty for manager Fredi Gonzalez, but with the Braves’ postseason aspirations tied to a single game, one cannot afford to simply play favorites.

Initially it was not a popular decision with McCann. How could it be? What player would not want to be in the lineup at a time like this?

It was a tough pill to swallow, but after taking the the news the way one would expect, McCann put his support squarely behind his teammate Ross by the time he spoke to’s Mark Bowman on Thursday:

“I wish I was playing, but I’m not,” McCann said. “That’s it. Rossy has been playing unbelievable and I’m his biggest fan. He’s one of my best friends in the world and he’s going to play great.”

Offensively speaking…

This has been the worst of McCann’s seven full seasons in the majors. An ailing right shoulder has plagued him throughout a campaign in which he set career lows with a .230 AVG, .300 OBP, and .399 SLG. Based on McCann’s downward trend over the final two months of the season, Ross represents the best option for Gonzalez and the Braves in the one-game “win or go home” scenario.

Ross has spent four seasons with the Braves and has established himself as the best backup catcher in baseball. His powerful bat and veteran presence have been the perfect compliment for McCann when it was time for a day off. In his 577 at-bats with Atlanta – about a season’s worth of work for an everyday player – Ross has batted .269 with 24 homers and 94 RBI’s.

Despite McCann’s down year, it remains common practice for most managers to load their lineup with left-handed bats against a right-hander like St Louis starter Kyle Lohse. In that regard, this is a case of going against the book. It is also a move that Gonzalez believes will give Atlanta the best chance to win this game.

This season’s numbers support the decision there as well, with McCann batting .230 with 15 homers and 51 RBI’s in 84 games started by righties. Ross hit .260 with 4 home runs and 13 RBI’s  in his 28 games against right-handed starters.

Another – and perhaps more glaring – split statistic for each was performance at home this season. McCann connected for 11 of his 20 homers at Turner Field, but batted just .198 in 56 games there.  That low mark for McCann included a dreadful 2-for-49 skid to close out the home schedule. While his sample size may be much smaller, Ross batted a solid .260 with 4 HR’s and 13 RBI’s in 23 home contests.

The Medlen connection…

Offensive numbers are one thing, but there is more to consider when it comes to what Ross has to offer his club. Friday starter Kris Medlen will be pitching the biggest game of his young career. His season deserves a blog post of its own, but what is important to note here is that, while Medlen has shined with both men behind the plate, he has been at his best working with Ross.

Over 13 total appearances, Medlen sported a 0.81 ERA in 44-1/3 innings this year with Ross calling the signs. Perhaps more to the point was the success that the two men enjoyed as a battery in a trio of September starts. Two of those games rank among the best performances of the young right-hander’s career.

Medlen allowed one unearned run to Washington while setting a career-high with 12 strikeouts in a complete game effort on September 3. Two starts later, he eclipsed that mark by fanning 13 Miami hitters over seven innings of one-run ball. Medlen capped his season by winning his ninth consecutive decision, defeating New York on September 30.

When Medlen worked with Ross in September, he allowed just 1 ER (3 total) in 22 innings for a 0.41 ERA. The 31 strikeouts came against just two walks and at the staggering rate of 12.7 K/9 IP. Opponents batted just .121 in those three starts.

Any way you slice Medlen’s season, the numbers border on the absurd. McCann should be credited for his excellent handling of the staff, which included a 1.75 ERA in 92-2/3 innings pitched by Medlen during the regular season. The postseason, however, has proven itself to be a different monster entirely.

Looking solely at what has been working lately with the pairing of Medlen and Ross, there is simply too much chemistry to ignore. That is not a swipe at McCann. It is simply the circumstances that the Braves find themselves in.

A one-game playoff scenario.

What to take away…

All of those spits and statistics tell the story of why Fredi Gonzalez arrived at his decision to go with Ross over McCann. Plugging in a reserve catcher as skilled as Ross is a luxury that most if not every other team in baseball do not have.

Make no mistake about it, Atlanta will need McCann to regain some of his All-Star form in order to make a successful run toward a World Series championship. One can only imagine that McCann would be more than happy to oblige. After all, the games only get bigger from here.

We can throw a few more statistics and facts at the wall prior to the game.

Till then,


Goodbye 2008, you will not be missed…

on the kind of fun and excitement generated by press conferences like
the one above, there was no way that I could (in good conscience) call
yet another to wish this calender year a fond farewell. But, believe
me, I wanted to. This visual aptly sums up the theme of this season in
Atlanta Braves history – perhaps more swiftly and soundly than the glut
of words to follow. A simple theory (if you will note the pictures) would be to blame all of this on those dreaded new blue alternate road jerseys. Suffice it to say, good riddance 2008!

Glavine_April_injury.jpgThere was a palpable excitement when the Braves reported to Spring Training this season. The return of Tom Glavine gave Atlanta a rotation that boasted four former 20-game winners. Unfortunately, Glavine, John Smoltz, Tim Hudson and Mike Hampton were unable to complete one full turn through the rotation at any point during the season.

and Smoltz could not provide the vintage Cy Young magic of their pasts,
both falling to injury in April and combining for just 18 starts
between them. When Hampton tore a pectoral muscle just prior to his
first start of the season, Atlanta found themselves operating without
three of their five regular starters. Hudson was not far behind. Those
losses would prove to be crippling to Atlanta’s play-off hopes.

rotation could have been viewed as a complete blackhole by the end of
July, were it not for the sparkling work of rookie right-hander Jair Jurrjens.
Acquired in a trade from the Detroit Tigers, Jurrjens finished his
first full season in the majors 13-10 with 3.68 ERA in 31 starts. Not
bad for a guy who was battling for the fifth spot in the rotation in
Grapefruit League play.

Hampton would eventually make it back,
returning in late July – just as Hudson’s season was being cut short by
Tommy John surgery. Settling in after a few rocky outings, Hampton
contributed solid work and quality innings over the season’s final
months. It was the first work for the left-hander since August of 2005.

None of the replacement hurlers were able to match the production of those they were replacing. Jo-Jo Reyes and Charle Morton both showed flashes of brilliance and increased lapses in command. Chuck James
suffered a shoulder injury and was shelled in seven starts before a
demotion to Richmond. Atlanta did see some quality work from Jorge Campillo, who gave the club 25 much needed starts and proved to be the only capable fill-in.

The Braves bullpen performed admirably in the face of overuse and injuries. Projected closer Rafael Soriano was a non-factor for much of the season with a mysterious elbow ailment. A success story in 2007, Peter Moylan was out by mid-April with Tommy John surgery of his own. Mike Gonzalez returned midway through the season to assume the closer’s role and re-established himself as a late inning force. Will Ohman, Jeff Bennett and Blaine Boyer provided the majority of the middle relief work, all making more than 70 appearances.

When it came to the offensive side, it would have been a good pre-season indicator to know that Chipper Jones
was going to win the NL batting title. As Chipper goes, so goes the
Braves line-up. However, poor indicators would have been to reveal that
Jeff Francoeur would regress to the point of being banished to the minor leagues and Mark Teixeira would be traded away prior to the July deadline.

struggles were just a microcosm of the Braves season. His average
dropped 54 points to .239, home runs fell from 19 down to 11 and RBI
plummeted from 105 to 71 as compared to 2007’s numbers. The quick
decline have put contract extension talks on hold and put Francoeur’s
young star status in question.

Lost at the plate, Francoeur was
sent to Double A Mississippi in hopes it would jump start his bat.
Problems arose from the demotion, as Francoeur voiced his disapproval
to several media outlets in the days that followed. It made little
matter, because the trip down only lasted for three games. Francoeur
was back to his regularly scheduled struggles.

With Teixeira
traded to the Angels and Francoeur trying to find himself, the Braves
lineup hinged on the health of Jones and the production of catcher Brian McCann, who earned his third consecutive All-Star appearance.

batted .301 with 42 doubles and a club-leading 23 homers and 87 RBI.
His strong work may have been one of the only factors that kept the
Braves line-up from coming apart at the seams. I would rattle off a few
more statistical accomplishments of other members of the supporting
cast, but Jones and McCann fill the star character roles nicely for this end-of-year

Pressing through a variety of injuries for the fifth season in a row,
Jones average climbed for the fifth campaign as well. Jones grabbed the
batting crown he had just missed in 2007, hitting .364 and belted his
400th homer to boot. That wasn’t the only time the number 400 and Jones
would be mentioned in the same sentence last season. Flirting with a
.400 average through most of June was hardly what most teams expect
from their 36-year old third baseman, but it seems Jones is simply
getting better with age.

Though the season was a 72-90
disaster, a record which was a reversal of what many predicted the
Braves to finish with at worst, there was hope that resonated through
the off-season. General manager Frank Wren came into the winter
with more than $40 million to work with in re-tuning the
rotation and adding a power-hitting left fielder.

Trade talks for Jake Peavy fizzled, as did subsequent attempts to sign free-agent starter A.J. Burnett. Despite this, Wren was able to strike a deal with the White Sox to bring middle of the rotation stalwart, Javier Vazquez, into the fray. His track record of durability was something Atlanta was without in 2008.

have deemed the off-season a complete disappointment, with no bigger
exclamation point than that of the negotiations that turned into a big
game of Deal or No Deal with Rafael Furcal. What ever
happened, intent to sign or not, the Braves came up short in yet
another off-season pursuit. The pains of those dealings may carry on
for years to come, as the Braves have vowed to never do business with
the Wasserman Media Group again.

that 2008 has mercifully come to a close, there is reason to hope that
the next two months will see Wren make improvements to the club for
2009. It may not be a year of contention and World Series hopes, but
with top prospects remaining in the system rather than heading to San
Diego, the Braves could return to their play-off ways by resuming the
tradition of cranking out young talent and promptly supplementing them
with the right veterans.

Here’s to 2009!

Till then,