A Brilliant Reader Challenge, Every Day?!
EN ROUTE TO NEW YORK — OK, you all have been so patient with me talking about my book that I thought this week (WHY WE LOVE BASEBALL WEEK AND our JoeBlogs 2-year anniversary!) I would try to answer a Brilliant Reader question every day while I bounce along the highways and byways of the land.*
*OK, here’s a deep cut — how many of you remember the 1970s television show “Shazam!” starring Michael Gray**? Maybe this introduction will jog the ol’ memory:
Chosen from among all others by the immortal elders — Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, Mercury — Billy Batson and his mentor travel the highways and byways of the land on a never-ending mission: to right wrongs, to develop understanding and to seek justice for all!
Oh, man, I’m 8 years old again! And don’t even get me started on “The Secrets of Isis.” Joanna Cameron, wherever you are***, I still love you.
**Michael Gray opened up a florist shop in Beverly Hills after his “Shazam” stardom, where he cut flowers for the stars, including, apparently, Ozzy Osbourne and family. I don’t know how many times The Prince of Darkness needed flowers, but apparently it was enough times to inspire Michael to call Oz his favorite customer.
***Sadly, yes, I know Joanna Cameron died two years ago.
OK, where was I? Oh yeah, Brilliant Reader challenge, every day. If you want to enter a challenge, feel free to email me here.
Today’s challenge is sent in by Brilliant Reader Alex … and it’s one that sneaks up on you: Make a Hall of Fame case for Brian McCann.
OK, let me acknowledge right up front: I never have thought of Brian McCann as a Hall of Famer. In fact, as Alex says right up front in his challenge, I haven’t thought much about Brian McCann at all. He claims that I have mentioned McCann one time since starting this blog a half million years ago, and, to be honest, I don’t remember that one time. McCann was obviously a terrific catcher for Atlanta — from 2006 to 2013, he made seven All-Star teams and posted a 117 OPS+. Look at his home run totals:
Good stuff. He actually kept up that home run consistency with the Yankees, hitting 23, 26 and 20 the next three years. And it should be said that McCann in his prime was much more than just a 20-something home run hitter; he smashed lots of doubles. As a 22-year-old, he slugged .572, and at 24, he hit 42 doubles and slugged .523. The man could hit. He has the most home runs for any catcher this century.
OK, so that’s pretty good. It also doesn’t seem especially different from, say, Russell Martin. In fact, Baseball-Reference WAR shows has Martin more than slightly ahead:
Martin: 38.8 WAR
McCann: 32.0 WAR
So what is there even to talk about here? McCann was not viewed as an especially great catcher in his time, he never won a Gold Glove (Martin won one) and while that in and of itself is not disqualifying (McCann did play in the time of Yadi), I don’t recall anyone ever even suggesting he was a contender. Baseball-Reference has him 22 runs below average defensively, and only shows him to be significantly above average for one season, 2008.
Catchers this century by bWAR:
Joe Mauer, 55.2
Buster Posey, 44.8
Yadi Molina, 42.3
Russell Martin, 38.8
Jorge Posada, 38.4
J.T. Realmuto, 32.9
Salvy Perez, 32.8
Brian McCann and Victor Martinez, 32.0
No Hall of Fame case here.
BUT … let me show you a different list. Let me show you FanGraphs WAR:
Buster Posey, 57.6
Yadi Molina, 55.6
Russell Martin, 54.9
Brian McCann, 54.5
Joe Mauer, 53.0
WHOA. Yes, Martin is still ahead, but by an insignificant margin. In fact, Yadi is ahead by an insignificant margin. Even Posey is only three wins ahead. Suddenly, McCann is at least in the ballgame.
“What’s the difference?” you ask. Well, that’s what makes this a fun challenge.
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