<
>

Braves need Brian McCann to produce

Editor's note: Throughout August, ESPN.com will take a close look at various teams in the hunt for a playoff spot to assess whether they have what it takes to survive the dog days of August and remain in contention come October.

At the bottom of the page, each team will receive a dog bone rating based on our overall analysis: five bones = serious postseason contender; four bones = good contender; three bones = average contender; two bones = poor contender; one bone = no contender.

Who's the big dog?

Brian McCann

McCann

After six consecutive All-Star selections, Brian McCann has finally proven himself as the best catcher in baseball. The Atlanta Braves backstop ranks first among qualifying National League catchers in batting average (.299), home runs (20), on base percentage (.371) and slugging percentage (.511). McCann will be relied upon to help score runs for the Braves come October after they averaged just more than two runs per game in last year's NLDS loss against the San Francisco Giants.

-- Kevin Orris, Capitol Avenue Club, an affiliate of the SweetSpot Network

Who needs to step up?

Jason Heyward was considered to be a generational talent entering the 2011 season after posting a 5.1 WAR in his rookie campaign. However, his production has dropped significantly this season, experiencing declines in nearly every offensive category. As a result, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez has benched him in favor of career minor leaguer Jose Constanza for the time being. Heyward, who turned 22 earlier this month, needs to take advantage of his limited playing time to recapture a starting role in time for the playoffs.

-- Kevin Orris, Capitol Avenue Club, an affiliate of the SweetSpot Network

Key stat: left on base percentage

The Braves' bullpen has been outstanding this season, leading the league in strikeouts per nine innings (9.45) and wins above replacement (6.2), tied for first in saves (44) and second in ERA (2.90). Perhaps most important of all, however, is the other category the Braves' bullpen leads the league in: Left on base percentage. The Braves' LOB percentage of 78.0 is tops in the majors. While Craig Kimbrel is stealing the show with 39 saves (tops in the majors), the Braves feature two of the top 11 pitchers in terms of LOB percentage. They include Eric O'Flaherty (90.5) and Jonny Venters (87.6).

-- ESPN Stats & Info

Where are they going?

Gushing scouting reports heralded him. In his first spring training, he sent pitches impossible distances. The balls he hit battered a Coca-Cola truck in the parking lot and broke an assistant GM's window.

In his first major league at-bat, he lined a 2-0 fastball from Carlos Zambrano deep -- 414 feet deep -- over the right-center wall at Turner Field. He made the All-Star team as a 20-year-old. Surely, more laurels would follow. It was more than just the start to a career. It was a creation myth in the making.

Almost a year-and-a-half after that first home run, however, much of the shine has come off Jason Heyward.

For more of Dayn Perry's analysis, click here.Insider