Tuesday, August 2, 2016
Brian Dozier's Silent Asset
Trying to overstate just how bad Dozier was for the Twins out of the gate it probably a fools errand. He was batting .191 to end the season's first month, and in the lead up to his eventual benching following the May 22nd game, he was batting a dismal .199/.284/.318. Paul Molitor sat Dozier down for the next two games, the final of which he made a late inning appearance in. There were calls for him to head back to Rochester (although never realistic), and patience had grown thin. It was there though that Dozier appeared to have turned a corner.
Returning to the Twins lineup in his normal role on May 25, Dozier has since started all 60 of the games he's played in. Across that time, he's slashed .296/.367/.587 with 16 doubles, three triples, and 15 homers. With an OPS of .954 over the past two months, Dozier has been one of the Twins and baseball's most impressive hitters.
Lost in all of the offensive production is just how drastic the disciplinary change Dozier has made at the plate has been. A season ago, Dozier set the Minnesota Twins single season record for strikeouts with 148. He'd never fanned more than 129 times in a season, and his 61 walks in 2015 were a significant drop-off from the 89 totaled just a season prior. This year though, Dozier has turned a corner in both departments. Through 105 games (playing in 100) Dozier has struck out on 73 occasions while walking 41 times. That puts him on pace to fan just 113 times (a career best), and draw 63 walks.
The change in plate discipline has lent itself to a heightened level of productivity for the Twins second basemen. He's currently enjoying a career best .257 batting average while producing an .817 OPS, another career mark. Even with his troublesome mark, Dozier's improvements are evident in the numbers supporting the output. He's swinging and missing just 7.7% of the time (down from 9.0% in 2015), and he's chasing out of the zone just 27.7% of the time (just off of his 27.6% career mark set in 2014).
At his core, Brian Dozier has an always will be a dead pull hitter. He sells out to generate power, and he's made a career out of it. In 2016, he's generating a career best 29.9% hard hit rate, while using the middle of the field 32.2% of the time (his highest since 2013). Although his spray chart is essentially a reflection of his career output, the ability to wait pitchers out, not swing and miss, and get his pitch has translated into a resurgence that could not have been predicted.
I've been all over the place trying to figure Dozier out this season. The numbers early said to wait it out, while I wondered if his approach had become an all out sellout, and that he might be cooked. As the dust begins to settle though, it appeared all Dozier needed was for his approach to translate into results.
Expecting a career .242 hitter to continue plugging away at a near .300 pace might be a tough ask. Right now though, Dozier has produced a 2.6 fWAR to lead the Twins, and is on pace to turn in his second best season as a big leaguer (behind only his All Star season).
Should Dozier continue to show a greater plate discipline, he'll find himself with plenty of opportunities to get his pitch, and you can bet he'll deposit it into the left field bleachers more often than not. The production numbers have been great for the Twins two-bagger, but it's also been fun to see a big leaguer make the adjustment to dictate at bats, and force pitchers to make mistakes.