Detroit Tigers: Is James McCann still the long-term solution behind the plate?
If McCann was providing the same defensive value that he did in 2016, pitch framing wouldn’t be as much of an issue.
Perez, one of the better defensive backstops in baseball and the American League Gold Glove winner at catcher in 2016, routinely grades out poorly in pitch framing.
In other words, below-average pitch framing is a little easier to live with when your team’s catcher is throwing out 45% of would-be base stealers.
However, with McCann’s other defensive metrics trending down, his pitch framing is thrust into the spotlight even more so.
James McCann and pitch framing
According to Statcorner’s pitch framing leaderboard for 2017, only four catchers have a lower RAA (or runs above average) number—Avila, Willson Contreras, Perez and Lucroy—than McCann’s -15.9.
What’s more, Detroit’s backstop is seeing 2.13 calls per game go against him. Only 13 catchers in the league have a lower number than McCann’s -2.13 per game.
While that may not seem like a lot, every pitch counts. Add those up over the course of a season and it’s a significant amount of potential strikes taken away.
By comparison, Atlanta’s Tyler Flowers may be the best pitch framer in the league. The backstop is worth 20.2 runs above average, and is getting 2.46 calls per game.
Below-average pitch-framing numbers aren’t anything new for McCann.
He finished tied for last in the league in RAA with a -15.6 number and had 1.16 calls go against him per game as a rookie (both per Statcorner) in 2015.
However, he showed improvement in 2016, suggesting he could once again rebound.
Last season, according to Statcorner, McCann checked in with a -2.6 RAA, while only having 0.22 calls go against him.
Neither of those numbers were within striking distance of the league lead, but they represented significant improvements over his rookie campaign.
If he can turn things around once again from a pitch-framing standpoint it can go a long ways towards boosting his defensive value.