2012 Position Preview: Catcher

After Ryan Doumit, Chris Snyder, Eric Fryer, Dusty Brown, and Wyatt Toreagas all got injured in 2011, Michael McKenry was acquired in a trade from the Boston Red Sox in June. McKenry hit a .222/.276/.322 slash line in 180 at bats with the Pirates. This offseason, the Pirates did not want to get stuck with McKenry starting again, so they signed Rod Barajas, previously of the Los Angeles Dodgers, to a 1-year, $4.5 million contract with a team option for 2013.

However, is Rod Barajas better than Ryan Doumit, who signed a contract with the Minnesota Twins, or Chris Snyder, who signed a contract with the division rival Houston Astros?  In 2011, Doumit hit a triple-slash of .303/.353/.477 with eight home runs in 77 games played.  Since 2009, Doumit has played 276 games, or an average of 92 games per season.  He hit .263/.327/.426 as well, along with an average of 10 home runs per year, which amounts to an OPS+ of 103, or just above average.  Snyder has played 200 games even over the past three seasons, or an average of 67 games per year.  In those 67 games on average, Snyder has batted .216/.333/.372 with eight homers,which is good for an OPS+ of only 88.  Over the past three seasons, Barajas has played 322 games for three different teams, or an average of 107 games.  He has hit .231/.275/.424 over those  three seasons with an average of 17 home runs per season.  His OPS of .699 is equivalent to a league-adjusted OPS+ of 86.  In the three season sample size provided, Rod Barajas has been the worst catcher in the hitting aspect of the game, where Ryan Doumit was the best.

However, the reason Barajas was brought in was not because of his offensive skills — they brought him in due to his superior fielding.  His career range factor per nine innings is 7.53, which is .15 points above the league RF/9.  However, his range factor per game is 6.65 — .68 points below the league average.  That said, his defense makes Ryan Doumit’s look like the work of a Little Leaguer.  Doumit’s career RF/9 and RF/G are 6.69 and 6.13, respectively.  Snyder’s defense is actually better than Barajas’ D.  Snyder’s career RF/9 is 7.81 and his RF/G is 7.13.

So is Rod Barajas going to be better than the tandem of Ryan Doumit and Chris Snyder?  Offensively, there is no doubt that Ryan Doumit would be much better than Barajas, if Doumit was able to play at least 90 games per season, but he can’t.  On the defensive side of the ball, Barajas is comparable to Chris Snyder, but has had better numbers in recent years.

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