Doumit’s Days in Pittsburgh are Numbered

Earlier this week, the Pittsburgh Pirates signed free agent first baseman Lyle Overbay to a one-year, $5 million contract. Overbay’s addition moves Garrett Jones to right field to platoon with Matt Diaz, another free agent pick-up. And, with Chris Snyder set to start behind the plate, the Overbay signing further diminishes Ryan Doumit‘s role with the Pirates.

Considering that Doumit’s $5.1 million salary makes him the second-highest paid player on the team (Snyder technically makes more at $5.75 million, but the Bucs got $3 million from Arizona last July to cover a portion of his contract), it’s highly unlikely that he opens the 2011 season in Pittsburgh. But, if and when the Pirates do find a trade partner, they won’t obtain much more than salary relief.

Turning 30 in early April, Doumit’s an intriguing player in the abstract. After all, he’s a career .268/.332/.438 hitter with a .333 wOBA in 1,900+ major league plate appearances. Adjusted for league and park factors, Doumit’s bat has been five percent better than the average hitter (105 wRC+). The switch-hitter isn’t all that patient, with a career walk rate of 6.8 percent, but as his .170 Isolated Power shows, he’s capable of driving the ball. It’s difficult to find a catcher capable of such offensive production – the cumulative line for MLB squatters last season was .249/.319/.381.

The Pirates likely used that line of thought when they signed Doumit to a contract extension two winters ago, including in the deal club options for 2012 ($7.25 million) and 2013 ($8.25 million) that must be picked up or rejected simultaneously following the 2011 season. Unfortunately, it’s now clear that Doumit’s lack of durability and his defensive woes make him a less interesting real-world proposition for MLB clubs.

Doumit has spent a chunk of the season on the DL in each of the past five years. According to the Baseball Injury Tool, Doumit tore his left hamstring in 2006, sprained his left wrist and ankle in 2007, fractured his left thumb in 2008, had right wrist surgery in 2009 and suffered a concussion this past year. He has had injury issues dating back to his prospect days, when back, knee, hand, and elbow ailments slowed his ascent to Pittsburgh. Doumit is injury prone, and playing such a physically taxing position exacerbates those problems.

Of course, there’s also the issue of whether Doumit is someone you want catching even when he is healthy. Measuring catcher defense is difficult due to the interdependence between battery mates. But in what we can currently quantify, Doumit’s living up (down?) to the “No-Mitt” moniker that dogged him in the minors.

Baseball-Reference lists Total Zone catcher defensive stats, looking at stolen bases allowed, caught stealing, errors, pickoffs, passed balls and wild pitches (adjusted for pitcher handedness) and then converts those numbers into a run value above or below average. Per 135 games behind the dish, Doumit rates as a -8 run defender. Matt Klaassen has his own measure of catcher defense (methodology here), using linear weights saved above or below average in terms of fielding errors, throwing errors, passed balls and wild pitches, and caught stealing. Doumit finished in a three-way tie for last place among all major league catchers in 2010 at -9.4 runs below average, due in large part to throwing out just 11 base runners in 90 stolen base attempts (12 percent). For comparison, other Pirates catchers threw out 36 percent of would-be base thieves.

If Doumit could stay on the field and hold his own at catcher, he’d be pretty valuable. But as an oft-injured player with dubious defensive qualifications, he looks to be entering a phase of his career in which he’s a dime-a-dozen first baseman/corner outfielder who only occasionally crouches. Perhaps a team like the Padres or the Blue Jays will take him on if the price is minimal. But if he’s not a catcher, Doumit loses much of his appeal.




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A recent graduate of Duquesne University, David Golebiewski is a contributing writer for Fangraphs, The Pittsburgh Sports Report and Baseball Analytics. His work for Inside Edge Scouting Services has appeared on ESPN.com and Yahoo.com, and he was a fantasy baseball columnist for Rotoworld from 2009-2010. He recently contributed an article on Mike Stanton's slugging to The Hardball Times Annual 2012. Contact David at david.golebiewski@gmail.com and check out his work at Journalist For Hire.


16 Responses to “Doumit’s Days in Pittsburgh are Numbered”

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  1. Robbie314 says:

    Seen on Bucs Dugout this morning: his nickname should be Dunkin’ Doumit, because “America Runs on Dunkin”.

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  2. Ryan S says:

    Doumit for Brandon Wood. Gives the Halos an alternative to Mathis as well as a backup for Morales at 1st, Hunter and Abreu at the corners and another option for DH.

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  3. Oddibe McBlauser says:

    I’d like to hear if buccos fans think his defense would be even worse or better in a back-up role, where perhaps the wear and tear would lessen. No-mitt is a severe underperformer as a starter, no doubt, but I’m slightly nagged by a feeling that he could be the kind of player that helpfully stretches a bench by being a hybrid back-up C/LF. He hits lefties decently IIRC, so a team like the Giants that likes to carry 12 pitchers might well benefit nicely from him, should PIT eat salary in a deal.

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    • john sparrow says:

      His defense is better than what we saw last year. He’s still below average, but not quite that bad. If he’s played in the right situations, he can do a good job at the plate… I’d really rather the Bucs didnt give him away for peanuts for the following reasons:

      1. they have space for his salary. It sounds bad to pay that kind of money to be a backup C, but if you consider they need to pay a bunch to move him (as some have suggested), its not that bad, in the larger picture…

      2. He has value with the bat that a backup C cannot provide. If the Bucs give him away, his roster spot would go to a backup C, like Jaramillo. 0 value in bringing him up from the bench. No backup C is likely to provide more value than Doumit. If you think of your backup C as an important defensive replacement only, then you can get rid of Doumit.

      3. If he got reps in RF/1B (esp 1B), he’d be better than the deer-in-headlights we saw last year. Of course, with Overbay, thats moot in Pit.

      4. He can hit RHP. Likely better than most bench players.

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    • Bill says:

      Doumit’s wOBA splits are .343 against righties and .305 against lefties for his career. The two seasons where he had 450+ PAs (2008 and 2010) were at complete opposite ends of the spectrum vs. lefties. In ’08 he was .365 against righties, .377 against lefties. In 2010 he was .363 against righties, .241 against lefties.

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    • MarkInDallas says:

      To answer your question about whether he would be better in part time duty, my answer is yes, from what I saw last year. After Snyder came over from the Diamondbacks, to me, Doumit noticeably improved behind the plate.

      In fact, considering that Snyder was not all that great defensively himself with the Pirates, I really didn’t notice much difference between the two when Doumit got spot starts.

      I would personally hate to see Doumit go if it was just a matter of salary relief. He’s going to be better than any other backup the Pirates can throw out there, and if he were given half the starts against RHPs, he could catch 50 games and put up some decent numbers.

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  4. matt w says:

    As the guy who made the Dunkin’ Doumit crack (hope that never gets back to him), I agree with john sparrow — the Pirates can afford his contract, and he’d be a better use of the roster spot than the other backup catchers they have — Jason Jaramillo gives away more with the bat than Doumit does with the glove, and Doumit provides some additional potential value as a pinch-hitter and RF backup. They shouldn’t deal him unless they can get someone at least moderately worthwhile.

    (Has to be an RF backup rather than LF — PNC’s left field is huge, and they need a real fielder in it.)

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  5. Joshua Maciel says:

    Would he have value as a backup catcher/bench player? Perhaps in the NL where he could get a lot more pinch-hit at-bats when he wasn’t behind the plate?

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  6. Walter Guest says:

    The problem with using your backup catcher as a pinch hitter is you then need an emergency catcher.

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    • NSCEGF says:

      That could work out well for the Giants. They don’t want to use Sandoval at C anymore, but it’s hard to find a better emergency C than a guy who legitimately played the position.

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      • matt w says:

        Neil Walker could play the same role for the Bucs. (Presumably he’d be in the game, but in the rare event that Doumit pinch-hits and Snyder gets hurt, Walker could move behind the plate and they could plug in their UT guy at second — currently Josh Rodriguez, I guess.)

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  7. Kirsh says:

    If Huntington moves Doumit for pure salary relief and gets nothing worthwhile back, it’s completely inexcusable. You can’t spend 5M on Lyle Overbay and then tell me you can’t handle waiting a few months to move Doumit.

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  8. CarlosM7 says:

    If I told you how easy it is to get a job in this recession, you wouldn’t believe me. But the truth is more employers are going online to find people just like you and me who are ready to work at a good job (one that pays good!). The only thing that makes sense is to stop wasting time driving around all day filling out a dozen applications and going from one boring low paying job to another. I found this site that pretty much matches you up with your dream job that is available in your city right now. I have found it very helpful. Go to YouFindWork.com

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  9. Ruben Amaro says:

    Doumit straight up for Joe Blanton. Everyone’s happy.

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  10. JRoth says:

    Aside from concurring that Doumit’s defense (not only throwing out baserunners, but also passed balls, etc) was much worse this past season than his usual – and therefore very likely to regress to a more acceptable level in ’11 – I want to make a note about the CS rates for ’10.

    For most of the period when Doumit was the Pirates’ everyday C, Dave Kerrigan was the pitching coach, and he was pretty much explicit about disregarding baserunners. Even lefties with good career records of holding runners were giving up SBs by the bushel. This was not primarily on Doumit, but on Kerrigan – the radio announcers talked about it constantly, and the newspaper beat writer concurred. When Kerrigan was fired and Ray Searage took over, there was an immediate change in approach towards baserunners, and the effects were visible. Unfortunately for Doumit, this was also the time when Snyder took over, so Doumit’s numbers didn’t see a big rebound. I can’t track down a CS rate by month, but I assure you that the Pirates as a whole did better in August and September than they had all year, and it wasn’t all due to Snyder.

    Final note: Doumit’s CS rates by year: 40, 27, 22, 27, 31, 12. Can you say “outlier”?

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