When Ryan Doumit was signed by the Minnesota Twins last off-season, he was signed with the notion that he could temporarily spell Joe Mauer at catcher or provide depth in other areas such as first base, designated hitter or outfield. Doumit played well enough during the early portion of last season that he earned himself a contract extension through 2014. For all of the good things that Doumit has brought to the Twins—professionalism, versatility and veteran leadership—Doumit still is a liability when he is behind the plate.
Doumit does provide good offensive production for the Twins and if you judge him solely on that, he is a valuable asset for the team to have. This season, Doumit is hitting .216 with 11 hits and six RBI in 51 at-bats over 15 games. Last season, Doumit hit .275 with 18 HR and 75 RBI over 134 games played. Based off those statistics, it is clear that Doumit’s strength as a big-league ballplayer is his offensive ability. However, if you look at his defensive statistics, you will see where his shortcomings are.
So far in 2013, Doumit has started three games at catcher for the Twins. When Doumit has started at catcher, he has committed one error and allowed one stolen base. Over his career of 488 games played behind the plate, Doumit has allowed a total of 317 stolen bases compared to only throwing out 101 runners which garners a career .242 caught stealing percentage.
If you compare those statistics to Mauer, who has started 856 games at catcher, you see a vast contrast. In his career, Mauer has only allowed 343 stolen bases and has thrown out 167 runners for a career total of .327 caught stealing percentage. In twice the number of starts behind the plate, Mauer has only allowed 26 more stolen bases than Doumit has and it should be no wonder why Mauer is the team’s starting catcher and one of the best in baseball history. However, I am not here to compare careers of Mauer and Doumit. Instead, I want to point out the need for a better defensive catcher to complement Mauer.
The reason the Twins had Drew Butera on the big-league roster for all those years was because he could provide solid defense when Mauer needed a rest. In an ideal world, the Twins would have kept Wilson Ramos and none of this would ever have been an issue; but the Twins aren’t that fortunate and you can thank former general manager Bill Smith for that. I don’t support keeping Butera around just for the sake of having him catch when Mauer is out, but it is something that I’d consider doing if the team remains in contention as the year goes on. Butera, for his career, has allowed 258 stolen bases, while throwing out 187 runners for a .328 caught stealing percentage.
If Sunday’s game against the Chicago White Sox told me anything, it is that teams will run on the Twins when Doumit is behind the plate and it will cost the Twins victories as the season wears on. Doumit’s inability to throw runners out also puts an added pressure on the pitching staff that must spend extra time holding runners on instead of worrying about throwing strikes and getting the batter out. Their only option to succeed is simple: don’t put runners on base.
Doumit does a decent job behind the plate and for what the Twins ask him to do, he does a serviceable job. All I am saying is that Doumit’s struggles behind the plate really does demonstrate how valuable Mauer is to the Twins as a catcher and the difference he makes on a game when he is behind the plate. It may not seem like a big deal now, but if the Twins are to remain in contention, they will need to take a closer look at their defensive situation behind the plate unless the team plans to have Mauer catch nine out of 10 games all year. If that were the case, Mauer would finally have a legitimate case for suffering bilateral leg weakness.