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Entries in Ryan Doumit (2)


Jose Molina, Ryan Doumit and Snatching Strikes

Up until a few years ago, sabermatricians were calling for players like Jose Molina to be sent to the glue factory. Molina is old (37), can't hit even by catcher standards (his career OPS+ is 68) and runs as if he's giving both Bengie and Yadier a piggyback ride at all times. However, recent work by brilliant researchers like Mike Fast has validated Jose's reputation as a master pitch-framer. There's a reason the Rays play Molina: he snatches enough extra strikes to make up for his slack bat.

Players like Ryan Doumit, on the other hand, have been hurt by the progress made in quantifying catcher defense. Doumit has always carried a poor defensive reputation -- they didn't call him "No Mitt" in Pittsburgh for nothing -- but we now have a better idea of just how much his glove nullifies his offensive advantage (108 career OPS+) over other backstops.

Now, Baseball Analytics has new catcher heat maps that help us visualize the difference in getting called strikes between the Molinas and Doumits of the word. Where does Molina get those extra strikes? Where does Doumit fall short? Here are their called strike rate heat maps since 2008:

Jose Molina


Ryan Doumit

Molina is especially adept at extending the strike zone vertically. With Doumit behind the dish, pitchers practically have to locate belt-high to get a guaranteed call (if the pitch isn't knocked into orbit, that is). Overall, 10.2% of pitches taken by hitters outside of the strike zone were called strikes over the past five seasons. Molina had the highest called strike rate on should-be balls (13.7%) over that time frame (minimum 10,000 pitches caught), while Doumit finished second-to-last (8%). The MLB average called strike rate on pitches thrown inside the strike zone was 77.8%. Molina had the sixth-highest rate among backstops (82.5%). Doumit? Dead last, at 70.4%.

Granted, catchers are not soley responsible for a pitch being called a ball or a strike. The type of pitch thrown, handedness of the pitcher and hitter, and the zone of the ump behind the plate that night are some of the other factors that influence balls and strikes. But over the course of many seasons and thousands of pitches, stark differences emerge among the best and worst catchers when it comes to stealing strikes on pitches thrown off the plate and getting strikes on pitches thrown over the plate. Here are the leaders and laggards in called strike rates among catchers over the past five years:

Highest called strike rate on pitches located outside of the strike zone, 2008-12 (minimum 10,000 P caught) 


Highest called strike rate on pitches located inside of the strike zone, 2008-12 (minimum 10,000 P caught)


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.