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Eric Haase has found his niche in Detroit

This could be the best year of Eric Haase’s career if he can put everything together.

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MLB: Seattle Mariners at Detroit Tigers Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time in years, the Detroit Tigers didn’t bring in a new free agent catcher over the offseason, so that means it’s Eric Haase leading things behind the plate in his third season in the Motor City. That doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll end up starting the most games behind the plate, however.

Haase has never played more than 110 games for the Tigers in a season, but this could be the year that Detroit leans on him the most. It all depends on how much of the load Jake Rogers takes up and how much Haase improves on his shortcomings. If Rogers is hitting, he’s going to earn a lot of playing time as the superior catcher of the duo. If Haase can improve his defense and potentially chip in with some reps in the outfield and pinch hitting opportunities, he’ll have plenty of plenty of time to show what he can do.

The most common knock on Haase might be that he can hit lefties for average but not righties. He might be a “bat-first catcher,” but that label doesn’t quite work if he hits .239 against right-handers and sees them twice as much as southpaws. That number is an improvement on the .203 average he put up against righties in 2021, though.

In fairness to Haase, he did hit 10 of his 14 home runs against right-handers a year ago, but that brings us to the power drop-off conversation. Haase’s ISO, or isolated power, dropped from .228 to .189 last season, meaning he hit for extra bases less often and lost some of the raw power he showed in 2021 with 22 homers (11 against both lefties and righties).

If Eric Haase is truly going to be Detroit’s everyday starting catcher in 2023, he’ll need to bring up the average against righties and find his home run swing against lefties again. He certainly has the power to hit over 25 home runs over a full season — his 162-game average is 26 — but Haase has to make sure he’s more than a specialty bat to contribute beyond the level of a solid platoon player.

Eric Haase 2021-22

Season GP PA wRC+ K% BB% ISO HR fWAR
Season GP PA wRC+ K% BB% ISO HR fWAR
2021 98 381 101 31.2 6.8 0.228 22 1.2
2022 110 351 112 27.6 6.8 0.189 14 1.3

Another area Haase can improve on offensively is his strikeout rate. He made some decent progress in 2022, dropping it from 31.2% to 27.6%, but that’s still more than a strikeout every four plate appearances. The goal should be for Haase to finish closer to the 22.0% mark, which tends to mark the average league strikeout rate. He’ll never be an eagle eye at the plate, but controlling his bat is the next step to unlocking his full potential.

Overall, Haase should be an above-average offensive piece for Detroit. He’s finished with a wRC+ above 100 in each of the last two seasons and jumped up to 112 in 2022, which ranked 10th among catchers with at least 350 plate appearances.

He has one of the most powerful bats on the team and crushed lefties for a .281 batting average and a .447 slugging percentage. Haase has worked on improving his game for years and the results are showing in some areas. Becoming a well-rounded major league player isn’t easy, particularly as a very late bloomer, but Haase has steadily improved through his late 20’s and is still primed to see his best seasons ahead of him.

The biggest question marks lie on defense. He is far from a pitcher’s best friend with -9 defensive runs saved a season ago. Framing is not his strong suit either, but it’s something Haase has openly talked about working on. The front office changes, and coaching changes that came with it, have opened up the door for Haase to shift focuses, according to The Athletic.

The Tigers have been working closely with Haase and showing him his metrics after each spring training game to see how small changes are affecting his game. They’ve moved him closer to the plate, which comes with its own set of challenges, and had Haase switch to a one-knee setup. That’s becoming a common fix to help catchers get more called strikes at the bottom of the zone.

It will take some time to see if these changes make any difference for Haase, but manager A. J. Hinch has indicated that his top catcher is showing improvements. Still, Jake Rogers’ bat played pretty well in spring training and as the better defender of the two, he could end up taking the bulk of the playing time, especially if Haase slumps at the plate. As long as Haase is doing damage, they’ll find a way to get his bat in the lineup, even if it means turning to the fallback plan of having him make starts in a corner outfield spot.


This could be setting up as the best season of Eric Haase’s career if he continues to show improvement against right-handers and steps up his defensive game a little more. The local boy made good will certainly have plenty of support from the fanbase as long as he continues to do damage at the plate.

On the other hand, there’s a younger, better defensive catcher right behind him that was only slowed down by Tommy John. Hinch isn’t handing over the reins behind the plate to Haase just yet. Rogers is going to get plenty of opportunities, and Haase will have to outplay him to reach 120+ games.

A good position battle never hurt anyone, but Haase finally has more to lose as the veteran catcher on the squad. Finding the happy medium in using Haase and Rogers will be the task of manager A.J. Hinch and his coaches. If they can get the best out of the duo, everyone, most importantly the team, should come out ahead in the end.