Is Ryan Doumit's Catching A Critical Liability?
[FONT=Arial] - Ben Lindbergh, Baseball Prospectus
It has been difficult on this site to state concerns about Ryan Doumit and the Twins extending him. In a debate last week, I was told 28-29 teams would love to have Doumit and he was more valuable than ever.
Let's look at two teams attempt to fill out a bench.
Last fall the Twins and Rays were both seeking catching help. The Rays signed Jose Molina and the Twins signed Doumit.
The Rays signed Molina for 1.5 million and picked up his option for 2013 at 1.5 (also reported 1.8) million. The Twins have invested 10 million in Doumit over three years.
For several years catching performance has been evaluated using pitch f/x. The results seem to be reliable as the catchers who perform at the top or bottom of the list remain relatively stable.
This information and study by Mike Fast was available to both teams. Aaron Gleeman referenced it at the time of the Doumit signing.
Molina was the best catcher at saving runs through framing pitches over a 5 year period. Doumit was at the bottom of the list. They were at the extremes both in total and average per 120 games.
How did it work out for both clubs?
If the metric is accurate, Molina saved his team 50 runs in 80 games. Doumit cost the Twins 21 runs in 59 games. Molina's value is all defense but those 50 runs saved represent 5 wins. Doumits -21 represents a loss of 2 wins and completely wipes out his contribution to the team as a hitter. Molina and Doumit took there familiar positions at the top and bottom of the list. A result that could have been easily projected.
[FONT=Arial]28-29 teams would love to have Doumit? Must be everyone except the Rays.[/FONT]
It couldn't be more clear that the Twins evaluation differs greatly from the Rays. One other quote from the first article about the Twins management and pitch f/x
"...[FONT=Arial]Ryan Doumit[/FONT][FONT=Arial], the patron saint of poor receivers. Except that Doumit hasn’t exactly been blacklisted behind the plate: in fact, he caught more innings for Minnesota in 2012 than he did as a Pirate the season before. Well, okay, you might say, but that was the Twins, the one team you could almost persuade yourself hasn’t heard about PITCHf/x yet. (“Wait, you mean all this time all of our pitchers were throwing really slowly?”)
[/FONT][FONT=Arial]I am assuming you stopped reading this a long time ago if you join the Twins management in skepticism about pitch f/x.
If not, what should the Twins do about Doumit?
Doumit's only value as a catcher is on someone's fantasy baseball team. In that realm, Molina isn't even an afterthought.
Doumit does have value. He can platoon at DH and pinch hit. While I question whether that role merits an extension, the real concern is the Twins management understanding of the impact of defense on wins. The Twins should not enter the season with any plan of using Doumit as a catcher. Anything more than a late inning emergency replacement can not be justified. Our young and struggling pitching staff must be given any edge the Twins can provide.
There has been much discussion about the Twins carrying 5 catchers. It is really 4 if Doumit is rightly moved into a Jim Thome role. It is 3 if Butera does not return. One of the three, Pinto, is not near ready for the majors. That leaves Mauer and Herrmann.
The bigger question must be asked about the Twins management. From the outside, it seems like they are taking a long time to embrace some of the metrics of the last decade.
One roster decision about a back up catcher speaks volumes about the two teams. One team commits 3 million to get two years of top ranked defense. The other commits 10 million over three years for an above average bat without a position.
Let's hope the Twins are right and the metrics of the last decade are poor indicators of how to build a roster and win ball games.