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« Chris Sale the Starter | Main | Cy Kershaw »

Ryan Doumit's Catch-22

Minnesota Twins signed C(?)/1B/DH/OF Ryan Doumit to a one-year, $3 million deal with possible performance incentives.

Possessing an injury history suggesting he needs to take the field covered in bubble wrap (at least one DL stint each season since 2006, including a fractured ankle in 2011) and a defensive reputation behind the plate earning him the nickname "No-Mitt" (Baseball-Reference's Total Zone says he has been eight runs worse per year than an average catcher), Doumit always seemed destined to end up in the DH league.

Just where he'll play with the Twins is unclear -- the health of Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau will likely dictate that -- but Doumit gives the run-starved Twins a decent hitter at a position to be named later. The problem is, the 30-year-old is sort of baseball's version of Yossarian. This is the Catch-22 that led the Pirates to decline Doumit's 2012-13 options for $15.5 million and that the Twins now face: Doumit's bat is only valuable at catcher, but having him catch takes that bat out of the lineup often due to injuries and costs his team runs through his dubious D. At first base, DH or in the outfield corners, he's just another guy.

Over the past three seasons, Doumit has a .263 average, .327 OBP and a .426 slugging percentage. The cumulative line for first basemen over since 2009 is .270/.353/.462. DHs have a .258/.336/.433 triple-slash, left fielders have hit .263/.332/.426 and right fielders .269/.343/.443. The switch-hitter's upside, if you accept the idea that he should only be a "break glass in case of emergency" backstop, is that of an average DH. And even there, he's best off in a platoon that limits his exposure to lefties.

From the left side of the batter's box, Doumit has a career .275/.336/.461 line in a little over 1,600 plate appearances. He has plenty of pull-side power, as his hit chart over the past three years shows:

Doumit's hit chart vs. right-handed pitching, 2009-2011

In about 500 PAs as a righty hitter, he doesn't have a drastically different average (.262) or OBP (.329) but he has slugged just .389. He hits more ground balls against lefty pitching (48 percent over the past three years, compared to 40 percent versus righty pitching), often chopping the ball to the third baseman or shortstop:

Doumit's hit chart vs. left-handed pitching, 2009-2011

It's hard to criticize the Twins for adding a competent batter at a low base salary after a 2011 season in which they placed 25th in run-scoring and gave significant ABs to the likes of Rene Rivera, Drew Butera, Jason Repko and Rene Tosoni as injuries piled up. But Doumit is a player whose value is higher in theory (switch-hitting catcher who dabbles at other corner spots) than in practice (injury-prone, DH-worthy defender whose power stroke comes from one side of the dish). The signing could work out, but you don't have to walk around with crab apples in your cheeks to understand why it might turn sour.

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