Masahiro Tanaka Injury: Did Brian McCann’s Pitch Calling Play A Role?
When catching unfamiliar arms, a signal caller generally works “book” and falls back on a pitcher’s best pitch in strikeout situations. It’s a common practice as battery mates learn the tendencies and preferences of their respective partners. Whether high school, college, or professional baseball, it’s a common occurrence played out on diamonds around the world. Was the Masahiro Tanaka injury a bi product of Brian McCann having to learn a new pitching staff?
In a recent piece, Ben Flajole researched Masahiro Tanaka’s Solo Home Run Situations and found the Japanese import threw his split-finger fastball 42.9% of the time in two-strike counts. Overall, the right-handed pitcher threw the pitch more often and harder than any pitcher in baseball. And while it’s impossible to directly tie heavy split finger usage to the Masahiro Tanaka injury, common sense points to it playing a role given the pitches notorious reputation in Major League Baseball.
Enter Brian McCann, a catcher with a strong reputation as both a veteran presence and All-Star catcher. A prize of the 2014 free agent class, he left the Atlanta Braves after 11 years in the organization. For more than a decade, he learned the ins and outs of a great number of pitchers. From pitch selection, to movement, to mentality, McCann was the conductor for an orchestra of successful arms.
At the moment, the Yankees 40-man roster includes 23 pitchers. Add additional roster moves and McCann has probably caught 30-40 unfamiliar arms this season, each with individual arsenals and tendencies. In Major League Baseball, few, if any catchers are more up to this task than McCann. However, the learning curve takes months, if not longer to truly master a pitching staff.
The Masahiro Tanaka Injury: McCann Caught Every Start
As Ben researched the Masahiro Tanaka injury, I asked him to be aware of the catcher’s Tanaka worked with this season. Turns out McCann was the right-hander’s only catcher. This is interesting since former catcher Joe Girardi is the Yankees manager. If any manager in baseball understands the value of the pitcher and catcher relationship, it’s him. Girardi trusting the Yankees best arm with McCann alone is an indication of this.
Even so, it’s impossible to expect a new catcher responsible for many pitchers to master the tendencies of one so quickly. Instead, it’s easier to play it safe and attack with split-finger fastballs whenever a key pitch is needed. As a catcher who called pitches and took pride in the ability to do it well, it was tempting to play for the strikeout and overuse breaking pitches — especially quality ones.
Most baseball fans would think the fastball is an easier pitch to catch and thus the path of least resistance, but more fastballs equals more contact. More contact equals more hits. More hits equals more runs. When unsure about how a pitcher will react in pressure situations and adversity, it’s easier to avoid them altogether and pitch against contact.
Did this contribute to a Masahiro Tanaka injury? It’s impossible to tell without access above my pay grade. But with the Yankees’ catcher situation in flux since the departure of Russell Martin, it’s important to acknowledge the fact McCann is new to the Yankees organization. And while it’s not certain a veteran catcher having to learn a handful of pitchers instead of an entire staff would have made a Masahiro Tanaka injury less likely, any office situations proves it’s easier to be the staff member learning one name than the newbie learning many.
23 Jul 2014 / Mike Newman /
Categories: MLB Analysis
1-On-1 ROTO Strategy Session
The Best Of RS
- Can Alex "Chi-Chi" Gonzalez Crack the Texas Rangers Opening Day Rotation?
- Fantasy Baseball Trade Deadline 101: A Former MLB GM’s Take
- Felix Hernandez and Solo Home Run Situations: A Blueprint For Longevity
- JR Graham: Is He Still An MLB Arm For The Atlanta Braves?
- Mason Williams: Is It Time To Label Him A Bust For The Yankees?
- Mike Newman's Top-50 Fantasy Baseball Prospects Scouted in 2014
- Nick Kingham Scouting Report (2014)
- Rangers Joey Gallo, Marlins Giancarlo Stanton And Strikeouts
- The ROTOscouting Baseball Podcast
- Top-10 Fantasy Baseball Prospects By Team
- Will Mike Moustakas Finally Put It Together Next Season?