Pirates’ fans have seen the results of Ryan Doumit’s defense up close and have pretty universally agreed that it’s not good. Over the past four seasons I’d rate it as “bad,” “somewhat improved,” “wretched” and “eh.”
But beyond the passed balls and weak throws, how does he rate as a receiver of ball and strikes? I’ve never heard any of his pitchers call him out (not that they should do so publicly.)
Mike Fast at Baseball Prospectus has done more work than anyone else I’ve found trying to give objective analysis to catcher defense. In his latest piece he dissects the effect catchers have on ball and strike calls based on their setup and movement. Standing out among his conclusions: Over the last five years, Doumit is the worst at framing pitches to create strike calls for his pitchers, costing the team 26 runs per 120 games played.
The article is well worth a read even if you don’t want to get into the deep number crunching parts. There are animated .gifs illustrating different techniques by various catchers that help or hurt their pitchers, including one that shows Doumit nodding his head as he follows pitches that are low in the zone, which leads to more ball calls.