Ryan Doumit, Bench Bat (and hopefully nothing more)


Ryan Doumit, displaying the tools of ignorance. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

I start this by applauding fangraphs.com and their daily work.  In particular, they have exposed something of particular interest about our new, er…. Catcher…, Ryan Doumit.  But we’ll get back to that in a bit.

In case you weren’t paying attention on Wednesday (and if not, then you need to get your priorities in order) the Braves acquired him from the Twins in exchange for AAA LHP Sean Gilmartin.  It seems to be a fairly classic trade:  Doumit’s usefulness on the Twinkies roster had waned; Gilmartin’s star had fallen (though quite possibly with shoulder trouble being a root cause) and thus his chance on cracking the major league rotation was reduced to the point that a meteor strike might need to be involved.  The Twins take a risk-free chance on a rebound while Atlanta gets a piece that they need.

Ryan Doumit (6’1/220) will be 33 years old in April, which will make him the 2nd oldest on the active roster as things stand today.  He is already signed for the year – at $3.5 million.  He was originally a Pirates product, drafted in 1999.  He had developed a reputation for being a bat-first player, fueled by multiple seasons hitting around .275 or better (.318 in 2008) with as many as 18 homers (2012).  His next round-tripper will be #100 for his almost 10-year major league career.

It hasn’t hurt his career at all that he is a switch-hitter and has only a 6 point career differential in batting average between his LHH/RHH numbers.  Of particular note for Atlanta, however, is that over 80% of his homers have come while hitting from the left side, and it’s most likely that he will be used primarily in that role.  Teams that might want to ‘turn him around’ though might take pause since he actually hit .290 vs. lefty pitching in 2013 (.3346 OBP) over 159 plate appearances.

Okay, cool… so what about his defense?

Well… that’s actually pretty ugly.

We’ve seen firsthand a guy who is bat-first, defense second… or third… his name is Evan Gattis.  I think I can argue that Ryan Doumit could be the original version.

  • At first base… 254 innings, lifetime UZR/150 rating of -20.6
  • In left field… 138 innings, lifetime UZR/150 rating of -17.1
  • In right field… 802 innings, lifetime UZR/150 rating of -9.0.  This number actually requires an explanation.  There was exactly one year (2007) in which he somehow posted a rating of +40.6 out there over 311 innings.  This drastically skewed the other 500-odd innings, for the rest of the data suggests pretty strongly that you could almost randomly pull somebody out of the stands who could play right field better than Doumit.

Okay, but he’s supposed to be a catcher, right?  Well, kinda.  He does have 4380 major league innings at that position.  The UZR numbers aren’t used for that position, though, so we have to look at other things, none of which are even “average.”

  • Defensive Runs Saved?  -18 in 2118 innings (roughly 2 years worth of games) since 2010.
  • Blocking pitches/Runs Above Average?  -4.7 overall
  • Stolen bases against/Runs Above Average?  -15 overall
  • Caught Runners?  31% overall, but 21.7% since 2010.

What fangraphs uncovered (along with Statcorner.com), goes a lot deeper.  They pointed out that in the years they’ve kept the records (since 2007), Ryan Doumit is the worst catcher in all of baseball (comparing 169 catchers handling at least 1,000 called pitches) in terms of “framing” pitches for strikes.  And it’s not even close.  Doumit “costs” his pitchers 3 strikes per game, on average.  The nearest guy to him with any kind of decent actual experience level is Rob Johnson, who is exactly 1 full strike call per game better.

Okay, so he misses a couple of pitches here and there…. so what?  Extrapolating the math (using fangraphs’ methods), that means the manner in which Doumit catches pitches costs his pitchers an additional run roughly once every week…. 7.7 games, on average.  And that’s not counting the other things he does to cost his team runs that I’ve already mentioned above.

But Wait, There’s More (unfortunately)

It turns out that the Braves may have gone from the Penthouse to the Outhouse in terms of catching prowess.  Allow me to explain:

Top 8 Best Pitch-Framing Seasons:

  • Jose Molina, 2008 (+4.07, 44.2)
  • Brian McCann, 2008 (+2.43, 41.8)
  • Jonathan Lucroy, 2011 (+2.58, 41.2)
  • Brian McCann, 2009 (+2.53, 40.9)
  • Brian McCann, 2011 (+1.95, 31.6)
  • Jonathan Lucroy, 2013 (+1.93, 31.1)
  • Russell Martin, 2008 (+1.74, 30.5)
  • Brian McCann, 2010 (+1.84, 30.1)

Bottom 6 Worst Pitch-Framing Seasons:

  • Ryan Doumit, 2008 (-4.49 lost calls per game, -59.1 rating)
  • Gerald Laird, 2007 (-2.72 lost calls per game, -31.0 rating)
  • Gerald Laird, 2009 (-1.83 lost calls per game, -30.4 rating)
  • Ryan Doumit, 2009 (-3.14 lost calls per game, -27.5 rating)
  • Gerald Laird, 2008 (-2.36 lost calls per game, -26.7 rating)

The one thing I can hope for here is that Brian’s stellar work rubbed off on Laird a bit… and that might have happened with Evan Gattis to some extent.  Evan (since you asked), was in the middle of the pack in 2013:  +1.33 (solid) with a 6.2 rating (due to fewer innings behind the dish).

So my takeaway thoughts are these:

  • Let’s hope Ryan Doumit is the emergency catcher, for we don’t really want him in the field… in any capacity.
  • Let’s hope that Evan catches a lot
  • Let’s hope that Christian Bethancourt keeps hitting and forces his own way up to the majors soon… before El Oso Blancho ‘catches’ whatever defensive disease that both Laird and Doumit have.