Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Unfortunate Half Of It- Dozier And Perk Do It Again

By all respective measures, the Minnesota Twins 2015 season has come to an end. Despite a very exciting month of September, and a Wild Card playoff chase that gave Twins Territorians something to tune into, Paul Molitor's squad has reached the end. While 2015 is no doubt a resounding success given the expectations, it remains 2016 that is Minnesota's goal. Unfortunately, two massive question marks remain.

Going into 2016, the Twins roster will prominently feature a handful of high ceiling and widely talented youngsters. Beyond Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton, there will be contributions expected from many others. At the top though, it will be the Glen Perkins and Brian Dozier types that are once again expected to carry that squad. The problem is, the task may be more than they can handle.

For the second year in a row, both Perkins and Dozier went from two of the Twins best players, to some of their absolute worst.

In the first half of the season, Dozier looked the part of an MVP candidate. Prior to the break, the first time All Star slashed .256/.328/.513 with 26 doubles, 19 home runs, 50 runs batted in, and 67 runs scored. The second half being a different story, Dozier slashed just .209/.280/.361 adding just 13 doubles, nine homers, 26 runs batted in, and 34 runs. To say he had fallen off would be putting it lightly.

The tale of two seasons for Dozier was widely apparent in his ever increasing strikeout rate. Being a high on base percentage player, his lower batting average never should have been questioned. In 2015 though, it became a problem. Having never struck out more than 129 times in a season, Dozier's new Twins record of 147 strikeouts (and counting), combined with just 61 walks, became a problem. Whether conditioning is to blame or not, for a second straight year, the star second basemen put together only one complete half.

And then there's Perkins.

Unlike Dozier, Perkins can more easily have outcomes directly tied to him. In the first half, he was flawless. Saving 28 straight games while compiling a 1.21 ERA and holding opposing hitters to a paltry .188/.217/.246 slash line, the Minnesota native secured a second straight All Star game appearance. That's when everything went south.

In his first post All Star appearance, Perkins took his first blown save of the season (and inevitable probability). However, on July 25 against the Yankees, he served up home runs to Alex Rodriguez (his third of the night) and John Ryan Murphy, in a game that would be the turning point in his 2015. From the break on, Perkins saved just four games, blew three, and owned a 7.32 ERA. Opposing hitters relished at the opportunity to hit against a guy allowing a .360/.394/.674 slash line.

Looking back as the Twins will miss the playoffs by just a few games, it was Perkins direct influence in the ninth that could have them in a different place. In a team game with the outcome determine at multiple different points, that's not a load Perkins should shoulder on his own, but it's one he did nothing to help. Spending time recovering from injury, the Twins closer came back ineffective and a detriment to the club.

Hoping Molitor would do something different is somewhat of a tricky situation. In regards to Dozier, the direct tie to wins and losses is not apparent. He gave the Twins little at the plate down the stretch, but remained an asset in the field. Hoping the slump would be busted eventually, he needed to be out there every night. With Perkins, the story is much different. The ineffectiveness was apparent for quite some time, and even worse when returning from injury. Shutting him down weeks before the season's end could have spared Minnesota a few desperately needed victories.

For the second year in a row, both players faded down the stretch. Last offseason, Dozier vowed to work on conditioning to hopefully stave off this exact outcome. For Perkins, the future remains murkier. When at his best, he's an elite closer and among the top in the American League. On Friday night, he was at his worst, cost the Twins their final opportunity, and then lacked the leadership to own it in the clubhouse following the final pitch.

In 2016, Paul Molitor and the Twins will have to count on both players to be key contributors once again, the question remains, will he be able to?

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