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McCann scouts himself, makes adjustments

MLB.com @beckjason

ARLINGTON -- One of the biggest tasks of James McCann's job as a catcher is to assemble scouting reports on opposing hitters going into each series. It has little to do with his individual performance, but the prep work gives him the background knowledge to call games for his pitchers.

So when he and Tigers coaches wanted to figure out how to fix him as a hitter, one of the ideas they tried was to put together the same scouting report on himself, in his format, complete with heat maps and hot and cold zones.

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ARLINGTON -- One of the biggest tasks of James McCann's job as a catcher is to assemble scouting reports on opposing hitters going into each series. It has little to do with his individual performance, but the prep work gives him the background knowledge to call games for his pitchers.

So when he and Tigers coaches wanted to figure out how to fix him as a hitter, one of the ideas they tried was to put together the same scouting report on himself, in his format, complete with heat maps and hot and cold zones.

View Full Game Coverage

The report detailed the elevated pitches he was chasing and missing, and the percentage of swings-and-misses. It showed how to get him out, and how his weaknesses had changed since he broke into the Majors and became a regular two years ago.

Since then he seems to have made the adjustments.

After walking and striking out twice on July 15 in the Tigers' first game out of the break, McCann had a .199 average, with 50 percent more strikeouts (45) than hits (30). He entered Monday's series opener against the Rangers batting .364 with a .915 OPS since then, with more than twice as many hits than strikeouts (12).

"This is the hitter I kind of envisioned in 2015," manager Brad Ausmus said. "This is kind of the hitter I thought he'd be."

And this is the hitter he had been on the way up the Tigers' farm system, and as a rookie two years ago. How he got away from that seems to do with a hunt for power, and the longer swing that went with it. The adjustment has raised McCann's average 55 points in a month, and it also has given the Tigers a catcher they can play close to every day in the wake of Alex Avila's trade to the Cubs two weeks ago, though McCann's improvement began well before that.

"I think he was coming to, or at, a crossroads," Ausmus said. "Because it had been over a year that we'd kind of been watching the same swing, with really mediocre at best results.

"He just wasn't hitting enough. Now he is. He looks good. He really does. He's done a good job of righting the ship with help from [hitting coaches Lloyd McClendon and Leon Durham]."

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.

Detroit Tigers, James McCann