COMMENTARY | Brian McCann loves right field, and he should love it even more at Yankee Stadium.
Over the past three seasons, McCann's 52 home runs to right field ranked seventh-highest in the major leagues, and his numbers are about to go up.
Although he's never hit more than 24 home runs in a season, there's a reasonable chance that the New York Yankees' new catcher will hit more than 30 home runs in 2014. In fact, given McCann's batting stroke, Yankee Stadium's dimensions, and McCann's patience at the plate, it almost seems certain.
Of McCann's 20 home runs last season, 17 were hit to right field. For his career, almost 80 percent of his 176 long balls have been hit to right field.
ESPN's Home Run Tracker shows that all of McCann's home runs to right field last season traveled at least 350 feet. If one overlays ESPN's spray chart with Yankee Stadium's dimensions, it's clear that all of those home runs would have been no-doubters in the Bronx. The question is: How many of McCann's doubles and long outs to right field would have just cleared Yankee Stadium's short porch if McCann had played half of his games in the Bronx.
At Turner Field, the right-field foul pole is 330 feet from home plate -- 16 feet further out than the pole at Yankee Stadium. Whereas the right field wall at Turner juts out to 385 feet, whereas the fence at Yankee Stadium is more hitter-friendly -- more than 25 feet shallower in spots.
Although the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's David O'Brien tweeted that McCann "will hit 35-40 HRs with Yankee Stadium as home ballpark," I think McCann's new home field will likely bring his season total to around 33.
Besides Yankee Stadium's dimensions, I also think that McCann's plate discipline will lead to increased power numbers. When he's patient, he usually gets a pitch that he can drive.
Last season, McCann sported a .187 OBP and .189 SLG (75 plate appearances) when he swung at the first pitch he saw. When he took the first pitch? In 327 plate appearances, he had a .370 OBP and .902 OPS. In fact, all 20 of McCann's home runs last season came during at-bats in which he took the first pitch. Now that he'll be in a lineup with more protection behind him, McCann might be further inclined to take pitches early in the count.
Ultimately, I think the McCann signing was a solid move the Yankees. He'll add power and offense to the Yankees' lineup and he's known to be a positive presence in the clubhouse. I don't think it'll take long before Yankees fans endear themselves to the team's newest catcher, especially after having to watch Chris Stewart play a majority of games behind home plate last year.
Howard Z. Unger is a freelance journalist in Brooklyn, New York. For the past 15 years, he has written about sports, media, and popular culture. His work has appeared in The Village Voice, New York Post, and New York Times.
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