Dodgers fans unfortunately got to witness another day of Austin Barnes going hitless on Tuesday. After an 0-for-4 performance, Barnes is not hitting just .100 on the season without an extra-base hit to his name. He has also struck out in nearly 35 percent of his plate appearances.
That has led many to wonder why Barnes and Will Smith continue to share reps. Smith isn’t hitting the cover off of the ball, but he has put up much better at-bats in 2020 than Austin Barnes has by far.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts spoke with media ahead of the game Tuesday and clarified the catching position. According to him, the bulk of innings behind the plate will eventually go to Will Smith.
Roberts says that eventually Will Smith will be getting more playing time than Austin Barnes. But for now, because of the short ramp up, they’re keeping the catching duties 50/50.
— Dodgers Nation (@DodgersNation) August 4, 2020
Due to the strange nature of a 60-game season, Barnes is likely getting in there more often than he should. The two backstops will have caught the same amount of innings after Wednesday’s game. But the Dodgers may be pivoting to the more offensively inclined Smith, though his numbers have not shown up yet.
The difference is that Will Smith puts the ball in play, having struck out just 3 times all season. Smith also puts the ball in play hard, having an average exit velocity close to that of Corey Seager‘s. If the Dodgers wanted to go with a defensively inclined catcher though, Barnes would be that guy.
The pitching staff as a whole has had much better success in 2020 with Barnes behind the plate. It is no doubt a small sample size, but pitchers carry a low 1.55 ERA when they have Barnes doing their catching. The Dodgers appear to be looking for production though in their decision to tab Smith.