Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Dozier And The Regression That May Be Minor

Last season, Brian Dozier swatted 42 homers for the Minnesota Twins and entered the franchise record books with the most for any player not named Harmon Killebrew. To say the second basemen from Mississippi had a good year would be the undersell of the decade. It immediately made Dozier the Twins hottest commodity, and nearly found him playing in a new uniform. Now back for 2017, what does the upcoming year look like?

Honestly, I'm not sure you could've found a writer more all over the board on Dozier than I was a season ago. From wondering if he was cooked, to enjoying the heights of his success, I simply jump at every inclination and tried to run with it. In reality, I think Brian Dozier solidified who he has matured into, and that gives us some really strong insight as to what lies ahead.

Looking at the past three seasons, Dozier has compiled a .249/.330/.469 slash line. He's averaged 31 homers a season, and has totaled three straight 100 run years. While the .268/.340/.546 slash line with 42 bombs in 2016 was something of a marvel, it wasn't all that far off from what he's made a living out of.

When it comes to regression, there's some really positive signs for Dozier. While his .280 BABIP was a career high, and 19 points higher than the 2015 season, it was backed by a career best 34.7 hard hit rate. In 2016, Dozier generated substantially less line drives (15.9% down from 22.6% and 19.9% in 2015 and 2014 respectively), but posted a career best 47.7 fly ball rate. Given 18.4% of his fly balls left the yard, he's benefited from the reality that getting the ball in the air plays in the big league. Also, bucking the notion that he's a dead pull guy, Dozier decreased his pull percentage to 56.4% after posting a 60.2% mark in 2015.

Despite elevating the ball more, and smashing it over the fence, Dozier has also remained generally within himself when it comes to his approach. He posted a 79% contact rating last season, which was a career low, but not far off from his 82.1% career average. He also swung and missed 9.1% of the time, which was a career high, but is somewhat expected given the power surge. Playing in just two less games than the 2015 season, he struck out ten less times while walking exactly the same amount.

Outside of the plate production, Dozier actually picked it up in the field as well. 2015 marked just the first time in his career that the Twins second basemen posted a negative DRS number. After being at -5 two seasons ago, Dozier pulled off an 8 run swing generating a 3 DRS mark in 2016. At second, Dozier came through on the highest percentage of routine plays during his career, while making 45% of the 20 plays deemed "unlikely" to generate outs.

Since 2013, after moving to second base full time, Dozier has been a positive fWAR player. The 2.5 fWAR he posted in his first season at second was respectable enough, but it's only taken off from there. Although he's not going to be nearly a 6.0 fWAR player yearly, expecting him to post a couple more seasons north of 4.0 fWAR is a good bet.

I think what we're looking at is a player that entered into a late prime given a positional switch and debut timeline. Brian Dozier isn't going to generate MVP votes on a yearly basis, but expecting him to fall off some proverbial cliff from his 2016 doesn't seem like a good bet. He's still a player that needs to avoid the deep slumps, but he's one completely capable of carry this Twins team.

Despite losing 103 games a season ago, Paul Molitor's roster is far from talentless, and they probably aren't as far away as some would assume. If Dozier can continue to be virtually what he has been for the past three or four years, the Twins should have no problem tabbing him as a yearly team MVP contender. Sure, his value and production may never be higher than the height it saw post 2016, but I'm not sure it's going to be significantly lower either.

2 comments:

  1. I like the in depth stats, makes me feel a little more confident he won't drop off quite as much as everyone expects.

    My question is: Now that we seem to be keeping Dozier in the short term, how do you think this will impact how Falvey/Levine plan for 2017 and beyond? Do you see us signing Dozier to an extension? They already noted him as a player that is part of the "solution" in Minnesota, not the problem.

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    1. I don't think it's as much about extending Dozier as it is about supporting him. As the youth continues to mature, there's talent on this roster. If Falvey/Levine can address pitching with a big arm or two prior to 2018, a run could be in store next year.

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