Why Brian McCann's Shoulder Woes Could Cost the Braves a Postseason Run
News came out in the last week that may provide a key to why Atlanta Braves star catcher Brian McCann is having the worst season in his career. According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, McCann has a cyst on his shoulder joint, and there are even some rumors that he may need surgery after the season.
McCann may be having the worst season in his great career, but he has still hit 18 homers and has come up with some clutch hits for the Braves. An injured McCann, or a less than healthy McCann, could potentially keep the Braves from making a postseason run.
This article takes a look at four reasons why McCann's shoulder woes could cost the Braves a postseason run this year.
Dan Uggla's Struggles
Heading into the season, the Atlanta Braves had two players that were expected to be among the National League leaders at their position in the power categories. Those players, Dan Uggla and Brian McCann, have normally posted such numbers throughout their careers, so it is certainly surprising that each has had a very disappointing season thus far in 2012.
Uggla has been awful to say the least. The veteran second baseman is hitting just .206 with 15 homers and 62 RBI. Making things worse is the fact that in his last 25 games, Uggla is hitting just .188 with a .119 average over the last two weeks.
McCann hasn't been very good, but he does at least have 18 homers and 57 RBI to go with his career-worst .230 average. With the recent news about his shoulder, some of his struggles are at least explained. However, that doesn't mean his struggles don't hurt the Braves.
The Braves can survive with Uggla or McCann struggling because of their pitching and the rest of the production in the lineup, but if McCann's shoulder gets any worse, there can be significant trouble. Having to carry two struggling players, along with a defense-only shortstop in Paul Janish, will be a tough task down the stretch.
Injuries and age are hurting the Braves this season. The club has dealt with a bunch of significant injuries to key players, and this doesn't even get into the fact that Chipper Jones gets extra rest due to his age. The number of injured key players could really cost the Braves with the new playoff format.
The injury list starts with pitcher Brandon Beachy, who was forced to undergo Tommy John Surgery. Beachy had been the Braves' best pitcher for the first half of the season, and his absence has severely hindered the starting rotation.
The pitching staff also suffered another injury recently, as Ben Sheets was forced to go on the disabled list. Sheets has been a great story for the Braves, pitching much better than anyone could have expected after a long layoff from the game. This doesn't even get into injuries Tim Hudson and Jonny Venters suffered earlier in the season.
The biggest injury on offense is the one sustained by rookie shortstop Andrelton Simmons. Simmons had been among the best defenders in the game, but was also hitting surprisingly well. His replacement, Paul Janish, is defending nearly as well, but isn't any kind of threat with the bat.
Chipper Jones has missed time with various injuries throughout the season, and that includes a trip to the disabled list with a leg bruise earlier in the year. Of course, this is in addition to his extra rest.
Brian McCann's shoulder will not improve during the season unless it is for a short time due to medical treatments, such as cortisone shots. Missing games is likely something that will happen at some point, even if it is just an extra game or two per week. This will only make the Braves' offense less potent.
In addition to being one of the club's top players, Brian McCann is one of the Braves' leaders. He is one of just three players, along with Chipper Jones and Tim Hudson, that were around for a part of the team's run of 14 consecutive division titles.
With a team as young as the Braves—with three everyday players spending the bulk of the season at the age of 22 and numerous pitchers spending the season at age 25 or younger— veteran leadership is important. The fact that McCann is a catcher only makes it more important, as the team needs him to help work with young pitchers like Mike Minor, Tommy Hanson and Craig Kimbrel among others.
If McCann has to miss any real time, it could potentially cost a young Braves team.
Middle of the Order Presence
Unlike last season, the Braves have a very solid offense overall. However, they are limited in terms of true middle of the order run producers. Brian McCann is one of those players along with the struggling Dan Uggla.
After McCann and Uggla, the Braves only have two other potential candidates. Jason Heyward appears like he is on his way to becoming a middle of the order presence, but he just isn't that guy right now despite his strong second half. Freddie Freeman is close to reaching that status as well, but he struggles far too much against left-handed pitching.
Despite battling his shoulder woes and having a career-worst season, McCann's 18 homers rank second on the Braves to Jason Heyward's 23. He has also come up with numerous clutch hits and is still a guy that pitchers fear as evidenced by his seven intentional walks on the season.
For the Braves offense to work, they need power hitters. Speedy Michael Bourn and contact hitter Martin Prado can get on base, but they need someone in the middle of the order to knock them in.