The Pittsburgh Pirate’s recent contract extension with Andrew McCutchen demonstrates their commitment to turning their baseball club around. That they were willing to let Ryan Doumit leave town, probably says more about their frustration with his inability to stay healthy (has only played more than 81 games in 3 of his 7 Major League seasons), than it does with Doumit’s ability. Doumit, along with Josh Willingham, is part of a pair of free agent acquisitions that the Twins hope will replace the offensive void left by the departed outfield/DH combo of Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel. While neither Doumit or Willingham is a perfect replacement for either Cuddyer of Kubel, the two new Twins will provide manager Ron Gardenhire with the defensive flexibility of Michael Cuddyer and offensive power of Jason Kubel. Doumit’s role on the Twins will likely be to serve as the regular DH while also giving Mauer a rest behind the plate, or serving as a late inning pinch hitter in games he does not start.
Defensively, Doumit leaves something to be desired. He’s below average as a catcher and at 1B (where he is hesitant to play in 2012, per recent commentsfrom Ron Gardenhire), and while he’s not as bad as an outfielder, he’s still -2 runs worse than average by Total Zone ratings. Offesnively Doumit is coming off his best season since 2008, earning 1.5 Offensive Wins Above Replacement, despite just 236 plate appearances. Doumit is a career .271/.334/.442 (BA/OBP/SLG) hitter, and he’s been slightly better over his past 4 seasons, posting an OPS+ of 111. While he will not generally hit for a high average, due in part to a 17.2% career K rate, Doumit has drawn walks in almost 8% of his plate appearances since 2009, putting him on base more than 1/3 of the time. When he does make contact, more 34% of his hits are for extra bases.
What will 2012 bring for Ryan Doumit? Assuming he plays 80% of his games at DH, 15% at C, and 5% at RF, Bill James projects Ryan Doumit to be worth about .66 WAR, valued just above his 2012 salary at $3.685 million. Those numbers break down to 13 home runs, 32 walks, and 74 strike outs over 429 plate appearances in 113 games. More or less, Bill James is projecting Ryan Doumit to match his career numbers, calculated for 113 games. More than Bill James, I think that Doumit’s 2011 numbers are more indicative of his performance for the Twins in 2012 than his career numbers. Assuming that Doumit can adjust to American League pitching, playing DH should keep him healthy, and I believe he will play a career high 154 games. Using his 2011 season as a launching point, I predict 14 home runs, 32 walks, 70 strike outs, a BABIP of .315, and 476 plate appearances. Using the Simple WAR Calculator, and again calculating a 80/15/5 split at DH/C/RF for Doumit, he’ll be worth approximately .585 WAR, valued at $3.2175 million. This does not mean that Doumit will suddenly become a super star, but in 2011 the Twins earned far less value from their designated hitters, posting just a .245/.331/.429 triple slash, employing, at various times, such power hitting designated hitters as Alexi Casilla, Matt Tolbert, Jason Repko and Brian Dinkelman. Doumit will certainly be an upgrade against those hitters, and will provide a huge defensive over the Twins’ primary DHs in 2012, Jim Thome and Jason Kubel.
2012 represents an opportunity for Doumit to prove that he is not an injury liability and that while he is best suited for a role as DH, he can still provide value to a team with his wide range of defensive skills. If he performs well, he’ll outpace his $3 million dollar one year deal, and the Twins be more than happy with their free agent pick up.
Previous 2012 Projections can be found here.