When the Atlanta Braves traded struggling left-handed pitching prospect Sean Gilmartin to Minnesota in exchange for catcher/outfielder Ryan Doumit, it represented a “sell low” move on Gilmartin while seemingly fortifying the Braves bench. However, the 33-year-old Doumit has been a colossal disappointment at the plate this season, and with that, he has greatly aided in the demise in the bench as a whole.
Doumit peaked from a production standpoint during the 2011 season with the Pittsburgh Pirates, when he posted a 133 wRC+ over 236 plate appearances on the strength of an impressive .303/.353/.477 slash line with 8 home runs. Following that mini-breakout, Doumit made his way to Minnesota, and in two full seasons as a part-time catcher and semi-regular designated hitter, the switch-hitter exceeded 500 plate appearances in back-to-back seasons while slugging a combined .428 with 32 home runs in less than 1,100 PA’s.
In short, Doumit was a solid offensive player to happened to be a switch-hitter, and he provided some modicum of positional flexibility thanks to his ability to play catcher at a near-Major League level. However, the bottom has fallen out this season.
While it is admittedly a small sample size, Ryan Doumit has been difficult to watch at the plate this season. In 75 games and 126 plate appearance, his slash line is an unsightly .193/.230/.286 for a .516 OPS, and defensively, he is so poor behind the plate that Fredi Gonzalez has reduced him to an “emergency” option, and he was never anything but sub-standard in a corner outfield spot.
Is this fixable? Potentially, but the underlying numbers don’t help that argument. Doumit has struck out in 29.4% of his PA’s this season, which is more than 10% above his career average, and while he has never been a major walker (6.8% BB rate for his career), that number has plummeted to just 4% this season. Pure home run power has never been a strength for Doumit, but an .092 ISO is ugly for anyone, especially without speed or defensive value.
It is certainly not the fault of Doumit that the entire bench has collapsed offensively this season, but because he profiles as the one and only “pure bench bat” on the roster, his issues are magnified astronomically. Rumblings have begun that it is time to move on from Doumit (who is in the final year of a contract), and while I would stop short of that at this particular moment (despite comparisons to the one and only Greg Norton), the writing is on the wall without significant improvement in the next week or two.
When Emilio Bonifacio is your best pinch-hitter, things have gone horribly wrong, and Braves Country can thank the impotence of Ryan Doumit’s bat for that conundrum.