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A Retro Analysis on Ryan Doumit

The Ryan Doumit rumor came and went like a single gentle breeze on an otherwise still day. The blogosphere did not even have time to engage its overreaction machine between the time the Mariners were linked to Doumit's selection today and when word card that he picked the Minnesota Twins. That's a good thing; we don't need any more contributions to global overreaction levels, but was passing on him, or him passing on the Seattle Mariners, a good thing? Doumit's name is not totally unfamiliar to Mariner fans who read this blog or USS Mariner, but he's never advanced past a "the Mariners could use a player like Doumit" level. There wasn't time to offer a detailed look at him before he signed elsewhere so I realize this might be of little interest now, but consider this a rumor autopsy. Or bookmark it for this coming July of next year.

Doumit enters the American League for the first time next season, having previously spent his entire career with the Pittsburgh Pirates after being drafted out of Moses Lake (local boy alert!) High School. Doumit never accomplished a full season with Pittsburgh, which would be a warning sign except that he wasn't prevented from playing because a terrible team thought he was terrible but rather because of many, many injuries. That's a differently shaped, and bigger, type of warning sign. Seriously, the dude gets hurt constantly. There are reasons his $7.25 million club option was declined after the best hitting season of his career and he ended up with just a single year deal for $3 million.

A big enigma surrounding Doumit has been his position going forward. While he has played a majority of his games at catcher for the Pirates, he is often disparaged for his play there. With the mounting injuries and age, many people fingered him for a more permanent move to the outfield or first base in 2012. I used him as an excuse to delve into catching defense again and, surprise, Doumit is probably really bad. Therefore for the Mariners, he would have to make do in the outfield mostly with possibly some emergency or spot-start duties at catcher when the team really wanted to get a left-handed bat in there. Doumit has too small a sample in the outfield and first base to declare if he'll be passable there so the Mariners would have been rolling the dice a bit from a stats perspective. That's probably why they employ scouts. They're certainly not very useful in Stratego.

Offensively, Doumit is intriguing for his bat. His speed certainly isn't winning him any accolades. A switch-hitter, Doumit's had more success batting from the left side than the right, which would make him good fit for Safeco Field on the surface. However, his splits reveal a troubling issue. While he appears to be a pull-capable hitter, breaking it down by batted ball types shows that when Doumit does pull the ball, it's almost always on the ground. His fly balls tend to go up the middle or the other way, smack into the dead zone of Safeco when batting left-handed. That's not an unusual pattern, but good sluggers tend to have home run rates more in the 50% range on the fly balls they do manage to pull while Doumit has hovered around only 30%.

Ryan Doumit's value starts off with a good bat, but then the dings start. A league change, possibly troubling home/road splits, a possibly troubling tendency not to pull many fly balls or get homers off the ones he does, can't really stick at catcher, injured frequently and a bad base runner to boot. At 1 year and just $3 million, it would have been difficult to conjure up any kind of froth, positive or negative, had the Mariners ponied up. Even before news came that he'd inked with Minnesota, I lost too much confidence in how I think he will hit that I don't see him as a likely standout in the outfield pile. Doumit certainly has a ceiling that would make him a value, but there's also plenty of potential risks such that losing out on him to the Twins doesn't cause me any consternation.