As Brian McCann heads toward his sixth straight All-Star selection and first as an elected starter, the Braves catcher is on a hitting binge that’s drawing attention on midseason MVP watch lists.
He’s hit .385 with 10 homers, 22 RBIs and a .468 on-base percentage in his past 26 games, and before Thursday he was sixth in the National League with a .314 average, seventh with a .527 slugging percentage, and eighth with a .388 OBP.
He’s produced those statistics while playing arguably the toughest position on the field and leading a pitching staff with the second-best ERA (3.07) in the majors.
“It’s amazing to watch on a day-to-day basis, especially from a catcher,” Braves utility man Eric Hinske said. “He plays every day; he wants to play. The at-bats he puts out there, the way he handles left-handed pitching, is amazing, to me. He hammers lefties, and it’s not that easy.
“He’s one of the best players in the game, no doubt in my mind.”
The Braves have hit an NL-worst .222 in June and have the league’s second-lowest OBP (.305) for the season. Try to imagine where they’d be without McCann.
To some, that’s the essence of an MVP – the player most indispensable to his team’s success.
“He’s carrying us right now,” Braves third baseman Chipper Jones said. “Absolutely carrying us.”
Jones, the 1999 NL MVP, was asked if McCann has moved his name into the list of leading MVP candidates at the season’s midpoint.
“Oh, there’s no doubt he’s going to get some votes,” Jones said. “He’s going to get a lot of votes.”
In his past 10 games, McCann is 16-for-37 (.432) with five homers and 10 RBIs. Now the Braves are back for a homestand beginning Friday at Turner Field, where McCann has hit .486 with eight homers and 14 RBIs in his past 14 games.
Kawakami lit up at Double-A
The Braves’ hopes of trading Kenshin Kawakami have steadily eroded since his demotion to Double-A Mississippi, where the veteran Japanese pitcher got rocked and made an early exit from his latest start Wednesday.
He gave up seven runs, six hits (one homer) and two walks in two innings of a 12-0 loss at Huntsville. He had one strikeout and left after facing three batters without recording an out in the third inning.
The 36-year-old right-hander is 1-3 with a 6.92 ERA in eight games (four starts) in Double-A, where he was assigned after being dropped from the 40-man roster in November.
He’s in the final season of a three-year, $23 million free-agent contract he signed with the Braves, who outbid several major league teams for the services of the former Japanese League star.
Kawakami was 8-22 with a 4.32 ERA in two seasons with the Braves, who tried to trade him after he went 1-10 with a 5.15 ERA in 2010 and lost his rotation spot at midseason.
Kawakami rejected proposed offers from at least two Japanese teams because he wanted another chance to prove he could win in the majors. The Braves weren’t able to find a major league suitor willing to pay enough of his $6.7 million salary this season.