Friday, November 18, 2011

The Doumit Gamble

When TwinsCentric looked ahead to the Twins offseason this year, it’s fair to say that Ryan Doumit was prominently mentioned. Here is his writeup for the Offseason GM Handbook:

Ryan Doumit
Age: 30 (4/3/81) | 2011 Salary: $5.1M
2011 Stats: .300/.350/.478, 8 HR, 28 RBI
When the Pirates acquired Chris Snyder from Arizona at the 2010 July trade deadline, it signaled the end of regular playing time for Doumit. After playing in 124 games in 2010, Doumit played in less than half of the Pirates games in 2011. However, he posted an OPS over .800, and his career OPS in seven seasons is .776. He has thrown out 25% of would-be base stealers in his career. Not exactly a strong defensive catcher, the Pirates have also tried him out at first base and right field in recent years. Pittsburgh has options for 2012 and 2013 at a combined $15.5 million, a lot for a part-time player, so we expect Doumit to be on the market.

And then he made it into half of our offseason blueprints. First Nick Nelson:

5) Sign free agent catcher Ryan Doumit for two years, $9 million.
With Mauer’s status hanging in the balance, the Twins need to add depth at catcher, preferably in the form of a player who could play somewhat regularly and add offensive punch to the lineup. Doumit has spent his career as a part-time guy with the Pirates, never playing in more than 124 games, but his .271/.334/.442 career hitting line is very solid for a catcher and he’s only 30. He’s not considered a strong defensive backstop, but Drew Butera can be kept around to fill that role and Doumit can also fill in at first base and in right field.

Seth targeted him in his blueprint, too:

#5 – Free Agent Signings
Ryan Doumit – C – After making $5.1 million in 2011 in Pittsburgh, he has a $7.25 million option for 2012 and $8.25 million in 2013. He will likely be non-tendered. Although he is not a great defensive catcher, he can definitely hit which would make him a good #2 catcher, DH and PH option. I’d offer him 2 years and $6 million.

(As usual, I’ll just mention – you can buy that Handbook. It’s really easy. It’ll come immediately. Doumit was mentioned NINE times in it. But best of all, it’ll make the offseason more fun and a lot shorter. Just click the button below.)

Add to Cart

There are several good reasons for signing Doumit (pronounced DOUGH-mit). First, he’s not Drew Butera. Second, he’s flexible in the way that Cuddyer was flexible: he can play several non-defensively challenging positions.Also, as mentioned above, he hit last year. And finally, he’s still not Drew Butera.

But there are reasons he was available – and not just available, but available at 1-year and $3 million. It’s for these reasons that I’m more cautious than my fellow TwinsCentrists. And I’d like to illustrate these with a couple of hard-learned lessons:

Lesson 1: A catcher is only described as “flexible” when he can’t catch.
If he could catch, he would never be moved from catcher. You would never know how flexible he is. The problem with signing Doumit is that while he protects the Twins a bit if Mauer can’t catch, he won’t be a real option for any extended period of time. That is especially true for the Twins and Ron Gardenhire, who aren’t too likely to put up with his brand of defense for too long.

Doumit has caught over 100 games just twice in him MLB career. Those two years he threw out 19.6% of base stealers. Overall, he’s thrown out just 24.6% of basestealers. But there is another reason why you can’t expect him to catch for any extended period of time.

Lesson 2: Rate stats don’t help you if you can’t stay on the field.
Here are excerpts from Doumit’s yearly review from, and invaluable subscription site for MLB fans. These are yearly evaluations as captured in that moment in time. See if you can see a trend….

2004 The switch-hitting Doumit had trouble staying on the field in 2004, but if he can beat the injury bug this season he has a chance to re-assert himself as a candidate to become the Pirates catcher of the future.

2005 - Health has always been a huge concern for Doumit. The 25-year-old switch-hitting catcher stayed healthy enough in 2005 to play 100-plus games (126) for just the second time in seven seasons of professional ball.

2006 - For the sixth time in eight professional seasons, Doumit missed significant time due to injuries in 2006. A balky hamstring caused the switch-hitter to play in just 61 games for the Bucs.

2007 - The oft-injured Doumit missed nearly half of the 2007 season with ankle, hamstring and wrist injuries, appearing in just 83 games while batting .274 with nine homers and 32 RBI.

2008 - He played in only 116 games, but that number was good for the second highest mark of his 10-year professional career.

2009 - It's safe to say the Pirates expected more out of their top backstop in 2009, but injuries, slumps and the trading of numerous veterans combined to sour Doumit's season. Doumit broke a bone in his wrist in April and didn't return until July.

2010 - Concussions ruined much of Doumit's usefulness in 2010 and it remains to be seen whether he can recover from multiple bouts of head injuries.

Honestly, when I got to the part about the concussions, I laughed out loud. Of course he has concussions. In fact, he has a history of them. Last year, while catching on 9/23 he took some foul balls to the face mask. He didn’t start another game after that.

Oh, and he was placed on the 60-day DL this last year, too, with a broken ankle.

Given the Twins medical history lately, I’m seriously worried about Doumit’s future. Playing for the Twins might kill him. And if he does die, the medical staff will wait at least five days before confidently placing him on the 15-day DL.

Lesson 3: Platoon splits can lie.
Doumit is listed as a switch-hitter, and hit career splits aren’t terrible: 798 OPS versus right-handers and 718 versus left-handers. But it’s important to look at the at-bats. Doumit has had 75% of his at-bats versus right-handers, which means he’s often been hidden against left-handers, and usually that means he’s not facing the really good left-handed pitchers.

The truth is that Doumit has never been able to convince the Pirates that he was anything more than a platoon hitter for most of his career. That includes last year, when he had only 54 at-bats against southpaws. For the Twins, a platoon hitter at catcher would be fine – but Mauer also hits left-handed.

So there are warts, to be sure. Personally, I’d have rather seen a right-handed hitting defensive backup catcher signed. Coincidentally, Gerald Laird signed with the Tigers today for $1 million. But for for 1-year and $3 million, Doumit is a decent gamble by the Twins, and it could turn out to pay off big.

But make no mistake – it’s a gamble.


JimCrikket said...

Thank you, John. You pretty much exactly captured my less-than-enthusiastic reaction to this signing... and did so much better than I could have. It's not that I hate it. I give Terry Ryan credit for going out there and setting about the business of trying to make this team better. Bravo for him. I'm just not sure Doumit was the best option, given the Twins needs. I hope I turn out to be wrong.

frightwig said...

So Terry Ryan now has moved quickly to secure two players who come with red flags attached and, at best, will improve a 63-win team at the margins. And now that he's used $6.5M to do that, how much of the $100M budget does he have free to spend, again?

siouxjv said...

Very fair assessment, but that last little inclusion of laird has me worried. On a side note, why has there been no ramon hernandez news of note?

spoofbonser said...

Wow, reading those year end summaries was a bit depressing, but it brings me to this: Twins need another catcher to replace Butera as backup. Pudge Rodriguez comes to mind, he would be a +defender with a better bat then Butera, but if not him, you get the idea. Drew seems like a great guy, but he needs to see some AAA pitching in the worst way.

Anonymous said...

"The Doumit Gamble?"

I think you meant "The Butera Gamble," which is the one the Twins have tried for the past two seasons, and lost at.


Jim H said...

Lesson 1: A catcher is only described as “flexible” when he can’t catch. I think this is true which is why I have wondered about the occasional enthusiam associated with Chris Herrmann. He has put up interesting numbers in the minors but nothing very exciting.

This fall he was sent to the AFL where he hit well, but he only got 50 at bats. Which means he was sent to fill out the roster and because of his "flexibility". So tell me, is he a real prospect or not?

Anonymous said...

On an unrelated note John: I usually look at the side bar to see the most recent postings of others: ie Aaron Gleeman, Sethspeaks, etc. However when I've looked that the side bar now I see one website listed multiple times on the sidebar. Is there somebody simply reposting his links to keep them at the top?

Shane Wahl said...

I think it is false to say that a catcher is said to be "flexible" when he can't catch. Maybe that is true with someone like Doumit who has been in the league for a number of years, but that doesn't apply to someone like Herrmann or necessarily anyone in the minors. Herrmann, unlike Doumit, seems to be good everywhere he plays defensively. Being "flexible" just means that they like to keep his bat in the lineup--something that should have been done to Mauer more the past 5 years to keep him healthy. Yes, they should have made Mauer *more* flexible.

I do agree with signing Ivan Rodriguez now, though. A third catcher would likely mean that Nishioka would start where he belongs--in AAA playing every day with Dozier and getting 100 at bats by early May instead of early July if he is up with the Twins.

Dave said...

I'm much more enthusiastic, but what do I know? For example, I also don't know if we get anything for Nathan and whether Cuddyer will still fetch us a first round draft selection. By the way, speaking of compensation, maybe the Twins will be better off with the new agreement. Either trade the guy you don't want to or can't resign or KNOW you'll wind up likely with nothing (see Kubel,J.).

TT said...

Just a note:

"he (Herrmann) only got 50 at bats. Which means he was sent to fill out the roster..."

It doesn't mean that. All three catchers on the team got a similar number of plate appearances. I think all it means is that, with only 6 teams, there are limited opportunities for catchers in the AFL.