James McCann Heads to Big Apple

On Saturday, reports indicate that 30-year-old catcher James McCann has agreed to a four-year deal with the Mets. He heads to The Big Apple after two seasons with the White Sox. Let’s check out the park factors to determine how the park switch might affect his offensive performance.

Park Factor Comparison
Park AVG 1B 2B 3B HR SLG wOBAcon RBIcon
Guaranteed Rate Field (White Sox) 102 102 100 80 106 102 102 103
Citi Field (Mets) 99 98 100 84 108 101 100 103
SOURCE: RotoFanatic.com
All park factors are for right-handed batters

On the whole, this is mildly surprising to me, as the perception (at least to me) is that Guaranteed Rate Field (GRF) is a very hitter friendly park, while Citi Field is pitcher friendly. Therefore, I would have expected a clearer win for GRF on the hitting park factors, which isn’t the case.

Let’s begin with the AVG park factors. Citi has slightly suppressed batting average, while GRF has increased it by two percent. As I’ve mentioned in each of these park factor articles, we don’t know what’s driving the AVG park factor, as it could be effects on strikeout rate or BABIP, or a combination of both. Although McCann doesn’t swing and miss significantly more often than the league average, he has posted a strikeout rate above the league average every season since 2015. So any difference in AVG park factor that stems from strikeout rate is important. Over the last two seasons, which includes this past short season in which he only recorded 97 at-bats, McCann has posted high BABIP marks, which were dramatically higher than his career average. Whether those marks themselves were fluky is a column for another day, but his strong recent offense is at least partially due to the high BABIPs. Therefore even if the AVG park factor is driven more by BABIP than strikeout rate, McCann would still be affected. Clearly, the move to a less friendly AVG park is a negative for McCann.

Moving along to the hit type factors, we start with singles, the most common of the four. Not surprisingly, the factors almost mirror AVG, with Citi reducing them slightly more than it does AVG. The two parks have had neutral effects on doubles, and McCann hasn’t been a major doubles hitter throughout his career, so a change here wouldn’t have made much of a difference anyway. Perhaps surprisingly, given that he’s a catcher, McCann has tripled nine times throughout his career, but has hit just one since 2018. Both parks drastically cut down on triples, with Citi doing so a bit less so. But, it doesn’t matter as just one triple for him would be considered a solid result.

Last of the hit type factors, and the most important for fantasy owners, is home runs. I am pretty shocked to find that Citi has boosted home runs by eight percent from 2017-2019, which is even higher than GRF’s boosting powers. I think the knee-jerk reaction would be that McCann might lose some power moving to a less power friendly home park, but apparently not! Citi has actually been better, which is great news for a guy whose home run power output has skyrocketed since 2019. I’m not here to tell you whether McCann’s HR/FB rate and ISO spikes the past two seasons are real (another time, another day for that), but the park factors here suggest that the move alone should result in a slightly higher HR/FB rate projection than he should have had if remaining a member of the White Sox.

Despite boasting slightly better triples and home run park factors, GRF comes out just ahead in SLG, likely due to the gap in singles and the greater weight the most common hit type has on the rate. I would imagine that if an ISO factor was calculated, Citi would look more favorable. Since we already have all the components of SLG, looking at that factor doesn’t add much additional information.

Next is wOBAcon, or wOBA on contact, which would exclude strikeouts. Citi has been neutral while GRF has slightly increased the rate. Remember, this is an all-encompassing metric which includes any effects on walk and strikeout rates, two factors we don’t see here. Obviously, this is a slight negative, but it would be more enlightening to get the breakdown by component, rather than just the hit types. Lastly, after all that, we find the RBIcon factor, or RBI on contact, a proxy for run scoring, is exactly equal at an offense boosting level.

So overall, the move in parks doesn’t look like it should have a major impact on McCann’s performance. Perhaps he’ll lose a bit in average, but that could be offset by a slight increase in home runs. Still, this was a surprise, as I figured that Citi was a more pitcher friendly park in all respects versus GRF, and that simply hasn’t been the case. The real question for McCann is how sustainable these breakout performances since 2019 are, as he had just posted a brutal .256 wOBA as recently as 2018.

Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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