Ryan Doumit had an exceptional year at the plate in 2008. He hit .318/.357/.501 with 15 home runs, a WPA of 1.90, an EQA of .302 and a VORP of 35.7. He was one of the top offensive catchers in all of baseball. But letís take a look into the future, and speculate as to whether this success will continue.
Doumit walked only 23 times this season, good for 5.1% of his plate appearances. This percentage ranked near the bottom in Major League Baseball. He chased 30.64% of all pitches outside the strike zone, also near the bottom of the list. Most of his production came from a high batting average and some pop, although it was hardly the result of any unusually positive luck. Doumitís .338 BABIP was perfectly reasonable considering his 23.4% line drive percentage. Despite chasing so many pitches, he struck out in only 12.8% of his plate appearances. That is well below his career total of 19.2%, and could indicate that he is developing at the plate. Simply put, there was nothing cheap about Doumitís season. He just raked all year.
But his low walk numbers are worrisome moving forward. At 27, he is right in the middle of his peak years. He should continue to post solid numbers for the next few years, as his average remains high. However, unless he makes some adjustments, he will have little to fall back on when his bat speed begins to slow with age. As he approaches 30, it will become more and more difficult to keep that average, and thus his overall production, high. Also, if he is forced out from behind the plate somewhere down the road, his offensive value will decrease further.
Taking this into account, along with his injury history, I am a bit nervous about approaching Doumit with a long-term contract offer. I wouldnít mind a deal to buy out his arbitration years, but I donít think I would go much farther than that. The Pirates should expect to be shopping Doumit around 2010, meaning the minor league catching depth needs a huge upgrade.
Boy, Matt Wieters would look very nice in the system right now. Sigh.
Stats courtesy of FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus.