Detroit Tigers: Tucker Barnhart’s offense is great, but at what cost?

(Detroit Free Press)
(Detroit Free Press) /

This offseason, the Detroit Tigers acquired Tucker Barnhart, opting to see what he has to offer for the 2022 season, picking up his $7.5 million option. Barnhart is a clear-cut better option than what the Tigers had been trotting out there.

While I mean no disrespect to Eric Haase, he’s better served in the outfield, being the backup catcher when Barnhart needs a day, and the Detroit Tigers do not want to use Dustin Garneau. It’s how he’s been used thus far and should remain in that role.

There was a clear benefit from adding Barnhart; his hitting will be a benefit to the organization. But, there are some drawbacks to Barnhart and what he brings to the table. Even though Barnhart is a two-time Gold Glove winner, his throwing abilities have been subpar.

It was expected that Barnhart would be better than the Tigers’ recent backstops in all facets, or at least present to be that way. But, early on in 2022, it’s clear that controlling the run game will be a struggle for Barnhart.

Detroit Tigers catcher Tucker Barnhart’s throwing needs some work.

It’s not something that Barnhart has always struggled with either. Looking back on his career numbers, Barnhart has been decent. He’s been up and down and inconsistent, but he’s had years where he is near the top of the league when it comes to throwing runners out.

But in 2022, Barnhart’s .241/.353/.276 slash line over 11 games is being clouded by the nine stolen bases he has allowed, halting just two runners from advances. For my math majors, it leads Barnhart to have just an 18% caught-stealing percentage.

This number must be higher, closer to the 30+ range, for him to be considered a quality throwing catcher. While there are other aspects of his game defensively that can overshadow the throwing deficiency, it has been well on display early on in the 2022 season.

Having a catcher with a quality hit tool is impactful, but pairing that with an inability to control the run game when expectations are that his defense would be sound makes it a little frustrating. As I said, it’s early in the season, and there is time to make adjustments, but an 18% CS% is not going to fly and has to be improved upon.

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Barnhart’s going to be a step up from where the team’s backstops were in 2021, but all facets of his defensive skillset have to be in tune for the Tigers to be happy with what he has produced.