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Brian McCann vs. David Ross

Posted by Kris N. on September 15, 2010

After the 2008 season, when the Braves pitching staff was in shambles, Frank Wren vowed to return the staff to it’s glory days when the word “pitching” was synonymous with the Atlanta Braves. His very first moves included claiming Eric O’Flaherty off waivers from the Seattle Mariners, resigning Vladimir Nunez, and trading for Boone Logan and Javier Vazquez. All very fine indeed, but the one move that has helped the entire pitching staff and will likely continue to do so in the future, is signing David Ross.

Up until then, David Ross was an inconsistent back up catcher for the Reds, Red Sox (in Triple A), and Dodgers. In 2003 and 2006 Ross lit the world on fire, posting .892 OPS (.336 OBP/.556 SLG) and.932 OPS (.353 OBP/ .579 SLG) respectively. But the other years didn’t serve as kindly, .544 OPS in 2004, .671 OPS in 2005,  .670 OPS in 2007 , and a .721 OPS in 2008. What the Braves knew about him was A. He walks a lot B. He strikes out a lot C. He is a very good fielder D. He has good power. I don’t think they knew he would hit for a high average, but hitting for a high average is secondary to the so called “secondary skills.” Imagine that. Anyways, he did it; He has had a line of .273/.380/.508/.888 in 2009 and .281/.385/.456/.841 so far in 2010.

So, what we know so far about David Ross:

  1. Walks a lot (11%)
  2. Strikeouts a lot (30%)
  3. A Slugger (career .444 SLG%, )
  4. Amazing fielding catcher (18 DRS in career 496 games)
  5. Great arm (Runner’s have a 61.2% SB success rate against him)

Yesterday, I read this tidbit from an article written by Jon Cooper about David Ross’s personality:

“Braves catcher David Ross has become known around the team for his ability to call a good game. He’s also earned a reputation as a real fun guy in a fun clubhouse via his personality and wit.”

Calling a good game, eh? I can’t believe I’ve never looked into that. I’ve always praised Brian McCann behind the plate, for his wise pitch sequencing. I’ve also publicly yelled at him, Jonny Venter’s should not have giving up a single home run this year, and yet, because McCann called a fastball right down the plate against Joey Votto, he does. (Which leads me to ask why Venters didn’t shake it off, whatever.)
Back to the subject matter, is David Ross better than Brian McCann at calling pitching in regards to getting the best out of pitchers?

Let’s find out:

Well, the pitchers seem to respond better when Ross is behind the plate. However, there is a lot of unknown variables behind this information. We don’t know who pitched to whom. Ross might not have ever caught Lowe or Kenshin, the brunt of earned runs in this staff.

Assuming all things are equal, just from this stat we can see that Ross would save Atlanta a total of 47 earned runs if he caught the 2,061 innings that McCann caught in 2009 and 2010 and they flipped playing time.

Now, the offensive drop off is surely great enough to negate possible runs saved due to the effect of calling pitches. In fact, David Ross’s wRC/Games * 162 (weighted to run value, offensive runs created, divided by games per 162 games) =  67.8, and Brian McCann’s is 96.4. So making McCann the backup catcher in effort to create a better run differential would be stupid. I feel that that goes without saying. It would be idiotic to bench McCann, ever.

David Ross’s WAR from 2009 and 2010 over 162 games = 4.8, compared to McCann’s 5.7.

The whole point is, Ross is a damn good catcher. He would be starting on any teams whose catcher’s last name wasn’t McCann, Mauer, Molina, Martin, Martinez, Posey, Posada, or Weiters.

David Ross has only had 300 plate appearances since joining the Braves and only 1,600 in his career. Obviously it’s an incredibly small sample size, especially to compare to a player with almost 2,900 consistent plate appearances. Given the chance to start, it’s somewhat difficult to believe he’d produce the same numbers, but…

just for fun, since 2009:

In short, David Ross = good, Brian McCann = great, season four of Burn Notice = excellent.

7 Responses to “Brian McCann vs. David Ross”

  1. grafe said

    well you can’t forget that mccann has said that ross has helped him with his fielding and it shows, his caught stealing percentage is the best of his career. hes definitely the best backup catcher and i was pretty surprised when wren managed to sign him to a cheap two year contract. gotta be a bit picky about his 08 though, a 720 ops from a good defensive catcher is a player whod start for lots of teams, especially with an obp at 370

    • Kris N. said

      That’s right, and McCann’s defensive has improved greatly from 0 DRS in 2009 to 5 so far in 2010. Grafe, I just wanna thank you for loyal reading and commenting, I really enjoy them. Thanks again!

      • grafe said

        thanks, i actually found this through a link on mlbtraderumors, i like to keep up with any decent blogs i find (hasn’t been many) but a couple other really good ones are these

        http://www.ranyontheroyals.com/

        http://joeposnanski.com/JoeBlog/

        that first ones a royals blog but i still think its really interesting reading about a team thats been bad for 15 years and how there seems to be a little hope for them now with a good farm system

  2. RH said

    Nice work. At a minimum, it wouldn’t hurt the Braves at all to use Ross and McCann more as a straight platoon. Or at least let Ross catch 50 games. That arrangement should also leave Heap with more gas in the tank at the end of seasons and extend his career.

    Bobby once loved to platoon guys (in Toronto, especially). In recent years, it seems like he’s preferred to run eight guys out there on opening day and leave them in until they dropped. I’ll be fascinated to see how much Fredi strays from his mentor’s (recent) philosophy about using his bench.

    • Kris N. said

      Ross is going to be very valuable in the final games for sure. Late inning defensive replacement, bench option, clubhouse leader. He was asked to organize the team only meeting. That’s awesome.

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