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James McCann, Mets' new catcher, values the intangibles

Watch new Mets catcher James McCann's introductory news conference

New Mets catcher James McCann meets members of the press in a video news conference on Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020.

Unemployment-induced introspection helped transform James McCann’s career, and the Mets believe his resulting major improvements as a hitter and defender are sustainable. That is why they gave him a four-year, $40.6 million contract to be their catcher.

But during weeks of negotiations and conversations, team president Sandy Alderson and the front office also became impressed with McCann’s leadership and intangibles. For as much as technology and analytics influence modern baseball, catchers — more than most players — need to rely on their gut and their feel for the game.

"I want the numbers to be my foundation," McCann said during a video conference call with reporters Thursday. "And then I want to trust my eyes in the game."

His go-to example, which he shared with the Mets before he signed: On Aug. 20, White Sox All-Star righthander Lucas Giolito took the mound for the seventh inning at 95 pitches, approaching his maximum for the day. McCann called for nine consecutive changeups to begin the frame. Giolito struck out the side on 15 pitches total to finish his scoreless outing.

"I know there is no metric anywhere in the game of baseball that would say that throwing nine changeups in a row is a good idea," McCann said. "That is just an example of one of the situations where I knew what the numbers were saying, but I also knew what my eyes are telling me. I was going to trust my eyes until they proved my eyes wrong.

"The easy answer is having that foundation, that knowledge of the numbers, but trusting what your eyes are telling you and what the other team is telling you and what your own pitcher is telling you."

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