When Healthy, Doumit Dominates

Prior to 2008, Pirates catcher Ryan Doumit had endured something of a snake-bitten career. A well-regarded prep prospect coming out of the state of Washington, Doumit was snatched up by the Bucs in the 2nd round of the 1999 amateur entry draft. The 6-1, 210 pounder displayed his potent bat throughout his minor league career (.296/.368/.459), but he had his fair share of detractors as well. In addition to a rough defensive reputation that earned him the ignoble nickname “Ryan No-Mitt”, Doumit had a difficult time staying on the field. As the 2004 Baseball America Prospect Handbook noted, “injuries to his back, knee and hand have dogged Doumit since he turned pro.” Despite the raw receiving skills and the history of bumps and bruises, BA still asserted that Doumit had “the stuff to be a No. 1 catcher in the majors.”

The switch-hitter made his big league debut in 2005, batting .255/.324/.398 in 257 PA. He appeared in 50 games as a catcher, while also seeing a little time in right field. While Doumit appeared positioned to spend a good deal of the 2006 season in the majors, injuries once again felled him, as he hit the DL with a strained hamstring in both April and June. Doumit only got 178 PA during the injury-marred season, batting a tame .208/.322/.389. Between the hamstring injury, a lack of confidence by management in his defensive skills and Ronny Paulino’s batting average-filled rookie campaign, Doumit spent the majority of his time at first base. In his first two seasons in the majors, Doumit drew walks at a 6.8% clip and struck out a lofty 23.7% of the time.

In 2007, Doumit finally showed the offensive promise that his minor league dossier suggested, batting .274/.341/.472 in 279 PA. His control of the strike zone remained about the same (8 BB%, 23.4 K%), but his .198 Isolated Power was mighty impressive for a guy capable of playing behind the plate. Of course, the Pittsburgh regime didn’t seem to recognize that last point, as Doumit spent more time in right field than he did at catcher. Injuries once again kept Doumit from taking the field on a regular basis, as he missed time with a sprained wrist in August and a high ankle sprain in September.

Following a front-office purge last offseason, Doumit was given a clean slate. He and Nate McLouth were both afforded the opportunity to shed old organizational labels (Craig Wilson redux for Doumit, 4th outfielder for McLouth). Realizing that Doumit’s bat could make him a premium backstop (as opposed to an offensively average, defensively-challenged corner outfielder), GM Neal Huntington, manager John Russell and the rest of the new guys allowed the 27 year-old to prove himself as a capable receiver.

While he’ll never earn great marks behind the plate, Doumit was adequate afield and mashed his way into everyday playing time. He did serve yet another DL stint with a fractured thumb in May, but his .318/.357/.501 line in 465 PA surely caught the attention of fantasy owners everywhere. In addition to showing plenty of sock (.183 ISO), Doumit improved his strikeout rate significantly. While he struck out well over 20% of the time during his first few seasons in the majors, Doumit whiffed just 12.8% in 2008. Doumit didn’t draw many walks (5.1 BB%) and his Outside Swing Percentage (O-Swing%) jumped from 25% in ’07 to 30.6% in ’08. Ordinarily, one would be worried about those hacking tendencies. However, in Doumit’s case, there appears to be a method to his aggressive approach. Each season in the majors, Doumit has improved his Contact% and O-Contact% markedly:

2005: 72.7 Contact%, 39.1 O-Contact%
2006: 74.3 Contact%, 48.8 O-Contact%
2007: 77.6 Contact%, 54.2 O-Contact%
2008: 81.9 Contact%, 66.0 O-Contact%

Doumit is chasing more pitches out of the zone, but he is also putting the bat on the ball far more frequently. With well-above average power for the position, a lower whiff rate and a line-drive bat (23.4 LD%), Doumit has the makings of an elite fantasy catcher. However, if you draft him, have a solid backup plan in mind. Those who wear the tools of ignorance take a beating, and Doumit’s injury history is too lengthy to ignore. Doumit has all the offensive skills to be an asset, but there’s just no telling if how often he’ll be able to take the field.





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.

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wells

why is he doing so much worse this season?