Let’s not overstate the impact Yankee Stadium will have on Brian McCann

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As soon as the Yankees’ signing of free agent catcher Brian McCann to a five-year, $85 million contract was announced, the projections started rolling in. “McCann will hit 35-40 HRs with Yankee Stadium as home ballpark,” tweeted David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Others were less bold, suggesting 35 as a ceiling for the former Brave.

It makes sense at first glance. Yankee Stadium is 314 feet down the right field line, a feature of the park that has turned a catchable deep fly ball in 29 other parks into a fourth-row dinger. According to Statcorner, Yankee Stadium allowed home runs to left-handed hitters at a rate 16 percent higher than average. It was even more garish in 2012, when Statcorner pegged Yankee Stadium at 46 percent above the league average. In 2011, it was 45 percent; 39 percent in 2010; and 14 percent in 2009. As Keith Law noted in Saturday’s column, “Sixteen of his 20 homers in 2013 were to dead right field, as were 15 of his 20 bombs in 2012.” And that was playing half his games in the comparatively much more pitcher-friendly Turner Field.

Since the new Yankee Stadium opened up in 2009, however, a Yankee has crossed the 30-homer plateau just eight times. Two were by Curtis Granderson (43, 41), three were by Mark Teixeira (39, 39, 33), one by Robinson Cano (33), and two by Alex Rodriguez (30, 30). Alfonso Soriano could also join the list if you count his 17 as a Cub and 17 as a Yankee. But with that list, you have only two natural left-handed hitters (Granderson, Cano), a switch-hitter (Teixeira), and two right-handers (Rodriguez, Soriano). About as even a split as you can get.

The lack of left-handed hitters to hit 30 or more homers hasn’t been for a lack of trying. They’ve had Hideki Matsui, Nick Swisher, Johnny Damon, Raul Ibanez, and Travis Hafner, just to name a handful. Matsui hit 25 home runs as a Yankee in 2007. Swisher hit 36 as a member of the Athletics in 2006. Damon hit 24 in 2006. Ibanez hit 34 in 2009 with the Phillies. Hafner has more of an excuse as he hasn’t been a solid regular since 2007 but he hit 42 in 2006 with the Indians. If the short porch in right field is such a friend to lefties, why have only two lefties and one switch-hitter accomplished the feat in the five years of the stadium’s existence?

Let’s try some theoretical math. On FanGraphs, the Steamer projection system pegged McCann at 20 home runs prior to moving to the Bronx. If we buy that projection as realistic, and assume that 60 percent of his home runs (12) will come at home and 40 percent on the road (eight), even boosting the numbers by the highest Statcorner park factor listed above (45 percent), that would only put McCann at 25 home runs. (8 on the road + (12 home + (12 * 0.45 ))) Even if all 20 of McCann’s home runs were hit at home and we boost that by the 45 percent park factor, he only comes in at 29. It’s possible the 20-homer projection is low, but even after the most generous math, McCann still comes in under 35 home runs.

McCann solves a very obvious problem for the Yankees, and he solves it very well. His contract wasn’t outrageous, and he should be productive for them at least for the first few years of the deal. But let’s not overstate how much McCann will benefit from Yankee Stadium. It’ll help, but it won’t be his Popeye’s spinach.

Michael Bourn opts out of his minor league deal with the Orioles

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Outfielder Michael Bourn was traded by the Diamondbacks to the Orioles late last season and hit a solid .283/.358/.435 in 55 plate appearances with them through the end of the season. While that’s not enough to outweigh the miserable season he had in Arizona, it was enough to get the O’s to give him a look in spring training with a minor league deal. They signed him to one in late February.

Then, a couple of days later, Bourn broke his finger while playing catch with a football. Unable to play, the O’s cut him. In early April, once Bourn healed, the O’s signed him again. He played 11 games for their Triple-A affiliate and went 9-for-41 with ten walks in 51 plate appearances. While that makes for a decent OBP, his lack of any sort of pop or good contact suggests that if someone throws him strikes, he can’t do much with the ball.

As such, the O’s had not called him up to Baltimore. And as a result of that, Bourn exercised his opt-out rights and became a free agent.

Someone may take a look at him given that his batting eye seems to be intact and given that, in an admittedly small sample size, he still performed last season. But if he does get a look, it’ll likely be back at the minor league level.

Rob Manfred talks about playing regular season games in Mexico

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The new Collective Bargaining Agreement commits the players and the league to regular season games on foreign soil. Most of the focus of this has been on games in London, for which there has been a lot of activity and discussion.

Yesterday before the Astros-Tigers game in Houston, however, Commissioner Rob Manfred talked about playing games in Mexico. And not as just a one-off, but as a foot-in-the-water towards possible expansion:

Commissioner Rob Manfred said Tuesday that the time had come to play regular-season games in Mexico City as Major League Baseball weighs international expansion.

“We think it’s time to move past exhibition games and play real live ‘they-count’ games in Mexico,” Manfred said. “That is the kind of experiment that puts you in better position to make a judgement as to whether you have a market that could sustain an 81-game season and a Major League team.”

A team in Mexico could make some geographic sense and some marketing sense, though it’s not clear if there is a city that would be appropriate for that right now. Mexico City is huge but it has plenty of its own sports teams and is far away from the parts of the country where baseball is popular (mostly the border states and areas along the Pacific coast). At 7,382 feet, its elevation would make games at Coors Field look like the Deadball Era.

Monterrey has been talked about — games have been played there and it’s certainly closer — but it’s somewhat unknown territory demographically speaking. It’s not as big as Mexico City, obviously. Income stratification is greater there and most of the rest of Mexico than it is in the United States too, making projections of how much discretionary income people may spend on an expensive entertainment product like Major League Baseball uncertain. Especially when they have other sports they’ve been following for decades.

Interesting, though. It’s something Manfred has talked about many times over the years, so unlike so many other things he says he’s “considering” or “hasn’t ruled out,” Major League Baseball in Mexico is something worth keeping our eyes on.