Tuesday, May 3, 2016
Numbers Say Don't Panic On Dozier
Through the Twins first 26 games, Dozier owns just a .204/.287/.350 slash line. Of his 21 hits, nine have been for extra bases, but his 116 plate appearances have been far more unproductive than not. For a guy that's batting second in a struggling lineup, it's fair to have some concerns in relation to Dozier's current production level.
In looking at things on a more granular level however, the numbers seemingly suggest a turnaround should probably be coming for the Twins second basemen.
As things stand currently, Dozier has actually improved upon quite a few of his 2015 numbers. His walk rate is at 9.5%, up nearly a percent over what it was a year ago (but still a far cry from the impressive 12.6% in 2014 that lead to a .345 OBP). He's striking out less, just 17.2% of the time in comparison to 21.0% a season ago. There's also the reality that he's hitting the ball square, posting the highest (29.8%) "hard" hit rate of his career. So, what gives?
Right now, Dozier is falling into some less than lucky situations, and he's not doing himself an incredible amount of justice either. His batting average on balls in play sits at .225, down nearly 40 points from a season ago, and easily the worst mark of his big league career. He's also generating line drives just 19.8% of the time, a new career low, but not far off from his norms. The highest change however has been in that he's launched fly balls nearly 50% (see 49.4%) of the time. When Dozier is hitting homers, that's not a terrible problem, but his 7.5% HR/FB ratio is nearly half or what it was a season ago.
It's long been noted that Dozier's power comes from him virtually selling out to yank the ball to left field. In doing so, he's generated harder contact and more home runs, but has left himself susceptible to covering the outside portion of the plate. In 2016, he seemingly has toned down his pull tendencies at least somewhat. He's still hitting half of his batted balls to left, but his 34.5% of balls put in play to the center of the field is the highest number since 2013. While his opposite field percentage remains consistent with where it has been, the power has noticeably been sapped.
Looking at plate discipline, there's really little to be concerned about as well. Dozier is swinging at the lowest amount of pitches outside of the strike zone as he ever has in his career (23.9%) and he's making contact 81.2% of the time (which is higher than 2015, and just off of his 82.9% career average). When taking a hack, Dozier has also whiffed only 7.5% of the time, nearly 2% below the output he produced a season ago.
What the substantive numbers tell us, is that the slash line Dozier is currently experiencing may be somewhat smoke and mirrors. There's absolutely no doubt that he needs to put a higher portion of batted balls on a line. Popping out isn't ever going to be an effective strategy, and when the ball isn't leaving the yard, the problem becomes even greater.
Considering his approach though, the weather probably effects him more than others. At Target Field or elsewhere, balls that may leave the yard simply don't in the cold early months. In 86 career games in April, Dozier owns a .216/.308/.370 slash line. That rises to .243/.299/.425 in May, and .255/.348/.451 in June. He's not a .300 hitter, and .204 is not at all far from his career .238 average.
You can probably make the case that the Twins would be best served in moved Dozier down in the lineup. In an ideal world, I'd probably agree. Considering he'd be replaced with the likes of Eduardo Escobar, Eddie Rosario, or Eduardo Nunez however, I think I'll pass. If you're not going to lead off Joe Mauer, then the Twins hitting Dozier one or two is a strategy that they'll just have to let him struggle through.
The calming part of it all though is that we're probably making more out of a slow first month than we really should be.