After career-worst slump, McCann figures out swing flaw

Ten months after returning too soon from an oblique muscle strain, Braves catcher Brian McCann said he finally figured out what was out of whack with his swing. And yes, he said, it stemmed from his strained side in late July.

“When I came back from that oblique I guess I was guarding everything,” he said, explaining how he unintentionally altered his swing to avoid aggravating the injury. “Because I’m going back and looking at all my film [of his swings] now, and I just wasn’t getting extended.”

After a slump that began in mid-August extended past 80 games and McCann went 7-for-44 (.159) with one homer and a .250 slugging percentage in a 13-game stretch through Monday, he noticed during one of his countless hours of watching video that he wasn’t getting his arms fully extended in his swing.

“I felt good enough to be getting hits, but not like how I feel now,” said McCann, who feels like back to being himself after going 6-for-14 with three doubles and two home runs in three games before Saturday.

Compensating for his side began when he returned from the 15-day disabled list Aug. 14 and continued not just through the season, but through his winter hitting sessions and the spring.

“When you take batting practice and you’re not hitting home runs whenever you want, that’s kind off a tell-tale sign,” said McCann, who knew something was wrong, but couldn’t figure it out even with the help of experts in his family and the Braves coaching staff.

In his last 45 games before the oblique strain, McCann hit .339 with 14 homers, 30 RBIs and a .636 slugging percentage. In 37 games from the time he returned from the DL through the end of the season, he hit .180 with six homers and a .346 slugging percentage.

And in 84 games (304 at-bats) between his return from the DL and Monday, he hit just .211 with 13 homers and a .368 slugging percentage. This from a hitter who entered this season with a .286 career average and .486 slugging percentage in seven major league seasons.

“I wasn’t backing balls up; every hit I got was a single,” McCann said. “I got myself into some bad mechanical problems that I didn’t know. Got ‘em corrected and been feeling good since.”

Bad habits can be subtle and becomes so ingrained that a hitter doesn’t even realize he’s doing it – even a hitter who’s a student of the game and the son and brother of hitting instructors.

“Just muscle memory, doing it for the last two months, then carrying over into the offseason and into spring training,” McCann said. “I just wasn’t getting the extension that’s needed to hit for damage.”

Damage meaning hit for power. Extra-base hits and home runs.

If McCann is indeed back to being himself, Braves slugger Dan Uggla knows what that could mean for a lineup that’s had the National League’s most dynamic top-of-the-order duo this season in leadoff man Michael Bourn and No. 2 hitter Martin Prado. A whole lot more RBIs are available than what the Braves have produced so far.

“When he’s doing his thing like he’s capable of doing, it’s huge,” Uggla said of McCann. “He hit the go-ahead home run against the Yankees on Wednesday, then came out the gate and got us off to a 1-nothing lead [Friday] against Baltimore. When he’s being him, he’s the best.

“It can be scary. We can do a lot of damage. Mikey’s had the year he’s had and Prado’s had the year he’s had so far, with Mac coming on like he has lately, if I keep doing what I’m doing I think we’re going to be all right.”

20 comments Add your comment

Tom

June 16th, 2012
7:21 pm

Finally First.

McFann :Ô: :Ô: :ô:

June 16th, 2012
7:22 pm

Thanks, Chief! So glad he got it figgered out—knew it had to be getting close…this should be fun! :D

Brandon

June 16th, 2012
7:27 pm

I’m very happy as well…except I’m upset that i can’t watch the game because of an MLB blackout right now. Blackouts are quite possibly the dumbest invention by man

bruce

June 16th, 2012
7:41 pm

phil

June 16th, 2012
7:45 pm

Let’s wait a few weeks before we dance with glee…sounds hopeful though.

McFann :Ô: :Ô: :ô:

June 16th, 2012
7:58 pm

phil

No! Let’s enjoy it while it lasts—hopefully we’ll be riding it the rest of the year!… :)

1eyedJack

June 16th, 2012
8:06 pm

Just lost Beachy. Crap!!

Choppinmama

June 16th, 2012
8:06 pm

I’m with you McFann. I’m going to enjoy his bombs each and every game they happen. Enjoy them in the moment. Too bad I cann’t see any tonight. Durn Fox making our choice for us. :-(

MikeY

June 16th, 2012
8:08 pm

Brandon, I agree. I am in the Wilmington NC area, where the Braves are hoping to move their Lynchburg team. Yet because of the &^%$! blackouts, cannot see Braves gamnes on Fox Sports South, AND cannot see the Braves on mlb.tv when they play the Nats or O’s.

It is just absurd. MLB needs to fix this!

At least I can watch the US Open. Go Furyk!

Jo Bling

June 16th, 2012
8:16 pm

Our best starting pitcher is about to go on the DL. For how long, remains to be seen. Could be ugly if he’s got elbow damage.

Doofus(Goober and Gomer's Smart Brother)

June 16th, 2012
8:18 pm

“MikeY” What’s a “Furyk” One of those new cars that NASCAR has?

McFann :Ô: :Ô: :ô:

June 16th, 2012
8:48 pm

Choppinmama

Ah, that’s annoying! Seems like your neck of the woods should get the Braves… :?

Harpie

June 16th, 2012
9:16 pm

This team is in the toilet…

Whiskey River

June 16th, 2012
9:57 pm

@McFann A lot of people pay good money for extra innings. Fox cuts off five games a week. That really sucks.

McFann :Ô: :Ô: :ô:

June 16th, 2012
10:05 pm

Whiskey Rivers

That’s pathetic…

Let's Be Real

June 17th, 2012
12:26 am

Please trade McCann

Da Mick

June 17th, 2012
7:51 am

I’m glad to hear that Brian feels like he’s figured something out. He has a better sense of what’s going on internally than anyone. But to my eye, watching him since he started playing at the major league level, he’s seemed to lose one of his most important weapons as a hitter, over the last several years – his eye for the strike zone. I don’t know if it has to do with all the trials he went through with his eyesight or what, but for at least the the last couple of years now, Brian’s been swinging at pitches that were out of the strike zone, pitches that he never swung at during his earlier years at the plate.

Ironically, it’s Freddy Freeman discipline that most reminds me of a younger Brian McCann at the plan. And strangely, or perhaps not so strangely, Freddy has also struggled since he started going through vision/contacts/glasses problems.

You don’t hear anything about Brian’s vision being a issue any longer, but watching him swing at a stike three pitch well below his knees, I have to wonder if that’s what up with him. A batter may have terrific power, but unless he can work the zone to his advantage, he’ll never be a great hitter. Just ask Dan Uggla, who has improved his zone discipline considerably, by the way. Until Brian McCann gets back to only swinging at pitches in the zone, he will not get back to being the hitter he used to be. Maybe I’m wrong, but that doesn’t sound like it has anything to do with his side injury.

Look up stats

June 17th, 2012
9:53 am

Da Mick, I suggest you look up stats before you post so you don’t sound like you have no clue what you are talking about. Freeman struck out 142 times last year and 58 this year so far. In Brian’s entire career he has NEVER struck out more than 98 times. In addition this year he’s only struck out 24 times and walked 21 times. That is an amazing ratio. The stats just don’t back up what you are saying.

[...] has fixed a flaw in his swing that stemmed from guarding his side in his swing after returning from his strained [...]

Da Mick

June 18th, 2012
9:33 am

Stats Guy, you may be technically correct, in terms of stats, but as I watch most of the games these guys play, and have for over thirty years, my point is that, while Brian may not be stiking out that much, over the last 2-3 years he’s begun swinging at pitches that either put him in a defensive count, or he’s swinging at pitches that he can’t square up on. Consequently, he’s not driving the ball like he once did, and his average is not what it once typically was when he was a more selective hitter.

As for Freddy Freeman, as a still-young player in the major leagues, he may strike out way more than McCann, but in my opinion, when he was going good, before his eye problems started this year, and last, Freeman was still a very selective hitter, in terms of the pitches he did swing at, and his productivity at the plate bares that out.

I know that stats speak for themselves in terms of the end reality, but when you’re talking about why a player is going good or bad, they don’t help much. No one may know the answer to these questions, but when you watch guys play just about every day for a long period of time, you can’t help but get a sense about what makes them good, and what makes them better or worse than other players. I’m just throwing in my two sense based on years of observation. I really don’t even pay attention to the stats, so it’s possible that I really don’t know what I’m talking about. But I think there’s more to the game than stats.

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