It’s been a battle debated by Detroit Tigers fans all season long. Should Eric Haase be starting regularly at catcher or Tucker Barnhart? The statistics tell a reasonably convincing story.
Everybody remembered Eric Haase’s emergence in his rookie season last year. He was one of three players on the team to eclipse 20 home runs for the year (joining Robbie Grossman and Jonathan Schoop), and he only played in 98 games.
This season hasn’t been as kind to him, but he’s also been splitting playing time with Barnhart. Before Monday’s double-header, Haase was batting .234 with seven home runs and 20 RBIs over 152 plate appearances (51 games). He’s drawn ten walks to go with 39 strikeouts (27.7% of his at-bats). He has 13 extra-base hits so far this season.
On the other hand, Barnhart has played in 55 games this season. His average sits at .217, and he is yet to hit a home run as a Tiger. He has nine RBIs to go with 14 walks and 52 strikeouts (32.3% of at-bats).
He has six extra-base hits (all doubles). Detroit acquired Barnhart from the Cincinnati Reds this offseason in exchange for third-base prospect Nick Quintana. This is his ninth major-league season, all of which were with the Reds before this season.
The defensive stats are interesting as well. In 17 attempts, Eric Haase has thrown out six would-be base stealers (35%), but he does have five errors while playing catcher. Barnhart has thrown out just 29% (13 of 32).
He has only committed a single error from behind the plate. Both players have allowed just a single passed ball to this point. To his credit, Barnhart did win the 2017 Gold Glove Award.
Who should be the starting catcher for the Detroit Tigers?
In a season where runs have been at a premium in Detroit, I am of the opinion that Haase should be starting regularly at catcher. He does have the versatility to play in the outfield as well, but the outfield is already in the midst of a logjam, and adding him to the mix would only complicate things further.
The offensive stats point towards Haase, and at the worst, the two are close to similar defensively. Although Barnhart won the Gold Glove Award in 2017, he is no longer at that level.
Generally, an easy out at the plate and equal-at-worst defense is not a good reason for Tucker Barnhart to be playing more regularly than Eric Haase, who may not have a great average but is quite capable of contributing runs to the scoreboard.