When your team is getting blown out 9-0 at home, it's easy to dismiss a player's subtle defensive contributions.
James McCann has made plenty of noise with his bat this week -- and all season, for that matter -- but the White Sox catcher also puts a lot of study into his work behind the plate, which he displayed in the aforementioned loss Tuesday against the Indians at Guaranteed Rate Field.
McCann caught Jake Bauers attempting to steal second base in the third inning. Bauers was initially ruled safe, but after a 40-second review, umpires reversed the call. It was the fourth base stealer McCann has caught in 13 attempts (30.8 percent).
Then in the fifth, McCann wisely determined he had no chance to tag Jason Kipnis at the plate on Carlos Santana's RBI single, so he wheeled around on a relay from left fielder Nicky Delmonico and gunned the ball to Yolmer Sanchez at second to retire Santana, who likely figured the play at home gave him cover to stretch his hit into a double.
While those two plays had no significant impact on the result, McCann's teammates applauded his heads-up play, which they credit to his meticulous scouting.
"He's been a perfect piece to this team," Delmonico said. "He's a really hard worker. He prepares better than I've seen anybody prepare for a game."
Delmonico and reliever Jace Fry said it's common to see McCann on team flights breaking down numbers like an accountant, analyzing opponents' hitting and baserunning tendencies.
"He's looking at batting averages (on) certain pitches in certain locations," Fry said. "He's looking at where there's weak contact, where there's swing-and-miss rates. And then he'll take that, highlight them into his graph, and he'll have all that information memorized by the time we face that lineup."
Given the erratic nature of Sox pitching this season, it might be easy to dismiss McCann's -- or any Sox catcher's -- effect on his battery mates. But McCann is tied for eighth among catchers in defensive runs saved with three, according to FanGraphs.
McCann, who has started 22 games while sharing duties with Welington Castillo, said he carries a lot of lessons from his first major-league manager with the Tigers, Brad Ausmus, a three-time Gold Glove catcher who played 18 seasons in the majors.
"He showed me the format that he used, and over the course of two to three years (in Detroit), I found a format that worked for me and the way I like to look at things," McCann said. "Basically I look at different numbers that break down what would guys do against certain pitches, where they're located: slider located in versus away, fastball located up versus down.
"And then it breaks down into counts: Where we can go in certain counts? Swing-and-miss percentages. Ground-ball percentages. So if you're looking for a double-play ball, what's the best pitch to go with here?"
McCann creates a general report for a series in a spreadsheet, then tailors it to each day's starter based on that pitcher's strengths and weaknesses and those of the opposing lineup.
"A guy like (Lucas) Giolito, if I know a (batter) struggles with fastballs in -- OK, that's one of Giolito's strengths, that's a good thing," McCann said. "If it's a guy that has good numbers on fastballs in, that's like: 'OK, do we go with his strength? How do we attack this guy?' "
McCann watches video, too, to help make improvements.
"A big one for me is (pitch) framing," he said. It's an area he knows he needs to work on. He grades out 55th in the majors in framing (minus-0.6) in FanGraphs rankings.
"I like to get a report after every game and see what pitches did I get that I shouldn't have gotten or pitches that I (didn't get) that I should've gotten."