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Mets: James McCann’s defense and leadership can elevate pitching staff

DETROIT, MI - AUGUST 12: James McCann #33 of the Chicago White Sox throws a baseball during the game against the Detroit Tigers at at Comerica Park on August 12, 2020 in Detroit, Michigan. The White Sox defeated the Tigers 7-5. (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - AUGUST 12: James McCann #33 of the Chicago White Sox throws a baseball during the game against the Detroit Tigers at at Comerica Park on August 12, 2020 in Detroit, Michigan. The White Sox defeated the Tigers 7-5. (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
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The recent addition of free agent catcher James McCann gives the New York Mets pitching staff a much more favorable position than in years past.

The New York Mets may have upgraded their starting rotation over the weekend without even acquiring a starting pitcher. With the recent signing of free-agent catcher James McCann, the Mets have added a defensive catcher on the rise that is going to make life a little bit easier for the starting staff.

If you don’t believe me, take it from starting pitcher Marcus Stroman who immediately tweeted his excitement about James McCann joining the organization over the weekend. Stroman had tweeted, “Beyond excited to work with @JamesMcCann34. I’ve heard nothing but unbelievable things about him as a player and person. Guy rakes at the dish and is always locked in behind the plate! Welcome to NY my man!”

In addition to Stroman’s comments, McCann has been highly regarded by previous teammates for his leadership behind the plate and in the clubhouse by former batterymates Lucas Giolito and David Price.

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It is not an overblown sentiment to believe that McCann has already made an impact on his new teammates and organization before even stepping foot in the clubhouse. It’s certainly a refreshing take after both Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom had their issues working with Wilson Ramos behind the plate.

Not only will McCann’s strong leadership qualities change the dynamic of the pitching staff, but it’s also important to note the defensive jolt he will provide behind the plate for the Mets.

During 2020’s abbreviated season, McCann had five defensive runs saved according to FanGraphs, which was a slight increase above his four defensive runs saved in 2019.

Another key defensive metric the 30-year old catcher brings to the table his ability to throw runners out. Over his career, McCann has thrown out around 36% of runners attempting to steal on him, including a 33% clip in 2020. To put that number in perspective over the past two seasons with Wilson Ramos behind the plate, Ramos had only thrown out around 16% of the runners attempting to steal on him.

To break those percentages down, in 2019 and 2020 combined McCann had only allowed 45 total stolen bases in 136 games behind the plate. On the opposite side of the spectrum in 2019 and 2020, Wilson Ramos had allowed a staggering 122 stolen bases in 165 games behind the plate.

If you’ve watched plenty of Mets baseball over the past few seasons as I have, opposing teams have had no fear of running on the Mets with their inability to throw runners out behind the plate or pitchers being unable to keep runners honest. McCann completely changes that narrative moving into 2021 by providing a sense of comfort to the pitching staff, that their batterymate has the ability to not allow runners to run wild on the basepaths.

In addition to those defensive credentials, McCann was ranked in the 88th percentile in terms of framing pitches by Statcast in 2020, which put him among the top ten catchers in all of baseball. McCann’s framing prowess was on display in Lucas Giolito’s no-hitter against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the 2020 season, and I believe that showing had put McCann on the map nationally in terms of his ability to handle a pitching staff behind the plate.

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Let us not forget that McCann’s bat is also a huge contributing factor in terms of why the Mets signed him this offseason. But I believe the Mets may be reaping more rewards defensively where the team has largely struggled as a whole the past few seasons.

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