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11/13/08 6:05 PM EST

McCann wins Silver Slugger Award

Honor bestowed on NL's top-hitting catcher for second time

ATLANTA -- Braves All-Star catcher Brian McCann was well aware of the impressive season Cubs rookie Geovany Soto produced. Still, he was confident that his statistics were as impressive as any other National League catcher.

Fortunately for McCann, the Major League coaches and managers who voted on this year's Louisville Silver Slugger Awards agreed.

McCann picked up his second career Silver Slugger Award on Thursday. He led all NL catchers with a .301 batting average, a .523 slugging percentage and an .896 OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage). His 23 homers were only matched by Soto.

"Any time you're recognized for an award it's special," McCann said. "You don't play the game for awards, but it's sure is nice to know that you finished the season strong and people recognized what you did."

Although he has played just three full seasons in the Majors, McCann has already earned three All-Star selections and won two Silver Slugger Awards. His first came in 2006, when he established career highs in batting average (.333) and homers (24).

"After 2006 season, I went home and didn't know what I'd done," McCann said. "I don't know if I'll ever be able to hit for that kind of average again."

McCann has been blessed with physical talents and the regular instruction he's received from his father Howie McCann, a former collegiate coach who owns and runs the Winward Baseball Academy in suburban Atlanta.

While his numbers might have been better during the 2006 season, McCann says that this year he actually felt he had a better feel for the powerful left-handed swing that has helped him find so much early success during his career.

"I felt like I had a much better grasp on hitting than I did in the past," McCann said. "The older I'm getting, I'm getting a better grasp of my swing."

Despite all of the success that he's enjoyed early in his career, McCann has committed himself to a strict physical conditioning program this offseason. For the past six weeks, he has stuck to a strict diet, which includes a lot of chicken, and has regularly jogged through his suburban Atlanta neighborhood.

2008 Silver Sluggers
 C Joe Mauer, MIN
1B Justin Morneau, MIN
2B Dustin Pedroia, BOS
3B Alex Rodriguez, NYY
SS Derek Jeter, NYY
OF Josh Hamilton, TEX
OF Carlos Quentin, CWS
OF Grady Sizemore, CLE
DH Aubrey Huff, BAL
C Brian McCann, ATL
1B Albert Pujols, STL
2B Chase Utley, PHI
3B David Wright, NYM
SS Hanley Ramirez, FLA
OF Ryan Braun, MIL
OF Matt Holliday, COL
OF Ryan Ludwick, STL
P Carlos Zambrano, CHC

"I'm just incorporating more running and less eating," said McCann.

As a result, he's dropped 20 pounds since the end of the regular season, going from 248 to 228.

McCann's improved physical condition will lessen strain on his knees and allow him to stay strong while dealing with the physical grinds a catcher encounters during the weeks of the regular season.

Although he hit just three homers with a .433 slugging percentage during his final 50 games this season, McCann didn't feel like he was affected by fatigue. Instead, he believes it had more to do with moving from the fifth spot of the lineup to the cleanup position after Mark Teixeira was traded on July 29.

"I got pitched to a little different," McCann said. "I didn't get as many balls in the middle of the plate as I'd have liked. I don't feel like I wore down at all."

Although Chipper Jones won his first career batting title with a .364 batting average and ranked second in the NL with a 1.044 OPS, the Braves third baseman did not secure his third career Silver Slugger Award. Instead the voters selected David Wright, who led all NL third basemen with 33 homers and 124 RBIs.

This year's NL Silver Slugger Award winner included Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols, Phillies second baseman Chase Utley, Marlins shortstop Hanley Ramirez, Cardinals outfielder Ryan Ludwick, Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun and Rockies outfielder Matt Holliday -- who was traded to the A's on Tuesday -- and Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano.

Louisville Slugger's Silver Slugger Award winners were determined by a vote of Major League Baseball coaches and managers who vote for the players they felt were the best offensive producers at each position in both the American and National Leagues in 2008.  Selections are based on a combination of offensive statistics, including batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage, as well as the coaches' and managers' general impressions of a player's overall offensive value. Managers and coaches were not allowed to vote for players on their own team.

  The specially designed Silver Slugger will be presented to each player by a representative of the Hillerich & Bradsby Co., makers of Louisville Slugger, the official bat of Major League Baseball, in a ceremony early in the 2009 season. The trophy is three feet tall and bears the engraved name of the winner and his Silver Slugger teammates in his respective league. The Silver Slugger Award was instituted by H&B in 1980.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.