Detroit Tigers: Battle for the Backup Backstop

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NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 01: John Hicks #55 of the Detroit Tigers celebrates his second inning three run home run against the New York Yankees with teammates Miguel Cabrera #24 and James McCann #34 at Yankee Stadium on August 1, 2017 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 01: John Hicks #55 of the Detroit Tigers celebrates his second inning three run home run against the New York Yankees with teammates Miguel Cabrera #24 and James McCann #34 at Yankee Stadium on August 1, 2017 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /
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James McCann has played 99 games or more behind the plate for the Detroit Tigers in each of the last three seasons, but who will get the lion’s share of the playing time behind him in 2018?

Going into 2018, James McCann is expected to garner the most playing time behind the plate for the Detroit Tigers. With catcher being such a demanding position, plenty of playing time will be available behind him.

McCann also enters 2018 with something to prove. While he improved his homer, RBI and walk totals for the third straight season, his defense took a step back last year.

After throwing out 43% of baserunners in his first two full seasons, that number dipped to 30% last year. A pitcher’s ability to hold runners and deliver the ball quickly plays a big factor too, but for a guy nicknamed “The McCannon”, that number is disappointing.

So far, McCann hasn’t had anyone try and run on him this spring, but he’s started slowly at the plate, going just 1-for-7 out of the gate.

Throwing out runners wasn’t the only defensive aspect McCann struggled with. According to the folks at StatCorner, McCann has rated at the bottom of the league in pitch framing in two of the last three seasons.

Their analysis shows Tyler Flowers of the Braves at the top being worth 211 extra strike calls throughout 2017. On the flip side, McCann was worth a staggering -227.

While pitch framing may not be the biggest thing on a catcher’s mind, it certainly doesn’t hurt to grab a few extra strikes here and there, and not lose potential strikes as McCann has been doing.

His struggles, and the hot start of Alex Avila at the plate cost McCann playing time last year before Avila and Justin Wilson were shipped to the Cubs. Could someone else do that again in 2018? Let’s analyze the competition.

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