Brian McCann was out of the lineup last night, which seemed like a pretty good opportunity to talk to him about his early offensive struggles. Is the shift getting in his head? Is he changing his approach to go the other way more often? Is he simply not making the hard contact that he’s made in the past?
“If you’re consistently backing balls up, the shift is going to take some hits away from you,” McCann said. “But it shouldn’t take two hits away from you a night. It’s better consistent contact is what I need to be doing.”
Over at River Ave. Blues, Mike Axisa looked at the way McCann has worked to beat the shift this season. He’s basically pulled the ball less often, and he’s specifically gone opposite field more frequently with pitches away. Axisa provides his usual nice breakdown, so check that out.
McCann acknowledged that he’s been trying to use the whole field a little more and specifically trying to hit outer-third pitches to the left side. The numbers suggest he’s having some success doing that, but that success hasn’t led to positive results. McCann’s hit .209/.243/.345.
So is the new approach working because he’s going the other way more often, or is it not working because the numbers are so bad?
“Maybe I’m trying to force it too much over there,” McCann said. “It’s a give and take sometimes when you’re hitting. Basically, I’ve got to get better. That’s the bottom line. I’ve got to be more productive.”
Power hitters tend to say that when they make good contact, the shift doesn’t matter. Any routine ground ball — whether it’s hit to someone or not — is not really a part of their game plan. A guy like McCann is looking to drive the ball over the infield, not necessarily through it. But that game plan doesn’t always work, which is why the shift is effective.
McCann seemed largely uninterested in discussing the specifics of his approach. Does it need more time, further tweaks, or a complete reconsideration? For him, the results seem to be the only thing that matters, no matter how he’s getting them. Beating the shift would be helpful. So would line drives to the wall.
“It’s just putting the barrel on the ball more consistently,” McCann said. “Hit it harder or hit it in the gaps.”
Associated Press photo