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Twins Daily Awards 2016: Most Improved Player

The Twins season is over, mercifully. However, that also means that it is time to hand out some Major League Awards. Last month, we gave out five Minor League awards. Over the next four days, we’ll hand out four Major League Awards.

Our first 2016 Twins Daily award of the offseason is the Most Improved Player. The Twins Daily writers, including minor league writers, voted for their top 3 most improved. There were a handful of decent candidates, but at the end of the day/season, Brian Dozier was the overwhelming choice for the Twins Most Improved Player.
Image courtesy of Brad Rempel, USA Today
“Improvement” is something that can be found and defined in several ways. It’s hard to believe that a Most Improved player can be coming off an All-Star season. Brian Dozier posted a .751 OPS in 2015 with 39 doubles and 28 home runs. In 2014, Brian Dozier hit 33 doubles, 23 homers and had an OPS of .762.

In other words, Brian Dozier was a really good player before 2016.

However, Dozier saw an 18% improvement in his OPS. He hit .268/.340/.546 (.886) with 35 doubles, five triples and 42 home runs (including 40 as second baseman, an American League record).

In 2015, he set a Twins record with 148 strikeouts. He cut that number down to 138. We often wondered what Dozier could do if he could cut down the strikeouts and find a way to hit for better batting average. We found out in 2016. Dozier raised his batting average from .236 to .268. In doing so, his on-base percentage moved from .307 to .340. A .034 improvement in batting average, with about the same walk rate meant that he was on base 7.5% more often than in 2015.

However, the biggest area of improvement came in the Slugging Percentage and Isolated Power. In 2015, Dozier’s Isolated Power was a very respectable .208. That number jumped to .278 in 2016. I guess that’s what happens when you jump from 28 home runs to 42 home runs.

But improvement can mean different things, including improvement within a season. For Dozier, his improvement from the first two months of the season to the final four months of the season was as dramatic as you can imagine.

In late May, Dozier was out of the Twins lineup two straight games, given a couple of days by his manager to regroup. At that time, he was hitting .199/.284/.318 (.602) with just six doubles and four home runs. There were even some fans calling for the Twins to send him to Rochester.

He was back in the Twins lineup on May 25, and from that point forward, he hit .291/.356/.621 (.977) with 29 doubles, five triples and 38 home runs in 115 games. And that is even after ending his season by going 7-58 (.127) over his final 13 games.

There were certainly other candidates for Most Improved Twins player in 2016. If Eduardo Nunez had stuck around all season, it is possible he would have been the lead candidate for this award. He went from utility infielder to All-Star shortstop with a strong first half. Kennys Vargas had an immensely disappointing 2015 season. While he spent most of the 2016 season putting up fairly pedestrian numbers in Rochester. Those numbers were boosted by a ton of walks, which is what we needed to see from him. He was terrific in his limited duty with the big league club, hitting .238/.343/.517 (.860) in 46 games with the Twins, including 10 home runs. 21 of his 35 hits for the Twins went for extra bases. And Byron Buxton’s September was a major improvement over anything we’ve seen from him in the big leagues over the previous 14 months. Kurt Suzuki was good with the bat again in 2016 after a rough 2015.

While the Twins took a huge step backwards (maybe 10-12 steps backwards?), it should not cloud our vision on the fact that there were some positives during the 2016 season. Brian Dozier led the way in many categories and it was his improvement in 2016 that helped make the team something to watch.

Feel free to share your thoughts, and your ballot, in the comments below. In an attempt at transparency, below are the votes from our writers and the results:

The Ballots
Seth: 1.) Eduardo Nunez, 2.) Brian Dozier, 3.) Kennys Vargas
Nick: 1.) Brian Dozier, 2.) Kurt Suzuki, 3.) Byron Buxton
Parker: 1.) Brian Dozier, 2.) Eduardo Nunez, 3.) Kennys Vargas
Cody: 1.) Eduardo Nunez, 2.) Brian Dozier, 3.) Kennys Vargas
Jeremy: 1.) Byron Buxton, 2.) Kennys Vargas, 3.) Ryan Pressly
Steve L: 1.) Brian Dozier, 2.) Kennys Vargas, 3.) Byron Buxton
Eric: 1.) Max Kepler, 2.) Buddy Boshers, 3.) Byron Buxton

Points
Brian Dozier - 13
Eduardo Nunez - 8
Kennys Vargas - 7
Byron Buxton - 6
Max Kepler - 3
Buddy Boshers - 2
Kurt Suzuki - 2
Ryan Pressly - 1


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27 Comments

Most Improved--Has to be Buxton. Last year he was basically overwhelmed--started this year likewise. Dozier had 3.5 great months, and of course he was withthe Twins given his contract and all, while Buxton went to Rochester. Buxton's September/October equaled Dozier's August. The outlier is that Dozier was a proven veteran who had demonstrated both SLG and consistency, but Buxton was making rumbles like a bust--until his final recall.

    • Hosken Bombo Disco and mickeymental like this
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Halsey Hall
Oct 03 2016 10:01 PM

I'd go with Dozier.I always complained about his batting average, and this year he brought it up a lot.Kudo's for him.

    • bluechipper and HitInAPinch like this
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bluechipper
Oct 03 2016 10:22 PM

Definitely agree with the Dozier pick. He became a more complete hitter who can now use the whole field when he needs to.

    • HitInAPinch likes this

Head to the Twins Daily Twitter account to place your vote for Twins Most Improved Player in 2016:

 

 

 

 

Agreed on Dozier. What a year!

    • HitInAPinch and wsnydes like this
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diehardtwinsfan
Oct 04 2016 08:29 AM

 

Most Improved--Has to be Buxton. Last year he was basically overwhelmed--started this year likewise. Dozier had 3.5 great months, and of course he was withthe Twins given his contract and all, while Buxton went to Rochester. Buxton's September/October equaled Dozier's August. The outlier is that Dozier was a proven veteran who had demonstrated both SLG and consistency, but Buxton was making rumbles like a bust--until his final recall.

 

Buxton had one good month... Not seeing this.I'd vote Vargas over Buxton for no other reason than he forced his way back into the 2017 picture.

    • HitInAPinch and wsnydes like this
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Parker Hageman
Oct 04 2016 09:12 AM

For me it boiled down to this with Brian Dozier:

 

2nd Half, 2015: 311 PA .210/.280/.359 9 HR

1st Half, 2016: 359 PA .246/.335/.450 14 HR

2nd Half, 2016: 332 PA .291/.344/.646 28 HR

 

Nunez's power numbers -- the 12 home runs -- was the reason I thought he was second but in reality, he hit very similar to his 2015 season this year with the Twins as well (758 OPS vs 764 OPS). 

    • Mike Sixel, h2oface and bluechipper like this

I'd have to go with Dozier myself.  That being said, I think it's far more important for the franchise to see Vargas and Buxton even on that list.

 

Buxton had one good month... Not seeing this.I'd vote Vargas over Buxton for no other reason than he forced his way back into the 2017 picture.

 

Vargas had one good month.  

 

From Aug 1 to end of season Vargas hit .163/.252/.380

 

He is a designated hitter, not a gold glove caliber center fielder.  If that's forcing his way into the 2017 picture, that says more about the state of the organization than anything he did

Dozier. One monthers Buxton and Vargas? Naaaaa. Plus Vargas got worse after his month. Buxton at least ended the year on the upswing. Most disappointing.... Sano.
Dozier got the extra homer and RBI that he is not getting credit for. The rain. He needs an asterisk, and the rule needs to be changed to keep all individual stats from rainouts. To pretend that they didn't happen is cheating history.
    • Seth Stohs likes this

I can see the love for Dozier but his run at the end of the season is unsustainable.  He deserves a team MVP award (probably), however.

 

I think it has to be Nunez, who made the best of getting regular playing time due to the rest of the team being terrible.  Apparently he played too well to keep around.  Shucks.

 

The rest of the players that got votes can be completely ignored for the purpose of this discussion, but it looks like everyone had to produce 3 candidates so I understand why they ended up here. :P

 

Vargas had one good month.  

 

From Aug 1 to end of season Vargas hit .163/.252/.380

 

He is a designated hitter, not a gold glove caliber center fielder.  If that's forcing his way into the 2017 picture, that says more about the state of the organization than anything he did

 

Unfortunately, most of the guys on this list had one good month.  So yeah, you're right.  

 

Unfortunately, most of the guys on this list had one good month.  So yeah, you're right.  

 

One was the last month, not the 1st.  Since this is about "Most Improved" I just found the reasoning to pick Vargas to be odd

    • h2oface likes this
If you miss 1/3 of the season as a member of the Twins because you were traded and not a Twin...... Well, you can no longer be the most improved Twin because you are not a Twin. At least in my world.
    • Mike Sixel and alarp33 like this

 

One was the last month, not the 1st.  Since this is about "Most Improved" I just found the reasoning to pick Vargas to be odd

 

I can see why he would be a #3, because there are really only two guys to pick from this year.  

 

I imagine the only reason Nunez was not on some lists is because he is no longer on the team.  However, it seems like a couple of guys threw darts at a lineup card to determine their picks.  That's OK, that's about all this year has been worth.  

 

If you miss 1/3 of the season as a member of the Twins because you were traded and not a Twin...... Well, you can no longer be the most improved Twin because you are not a Twin. At least in my world.

 

It's "Most Improved Player."

It's "Most Improved Player."


Exactly. His averages: OPS, OPS+, BA, SLUG, and OBP for the year was virtually identical to 2015. Improved? Not so much. And even if you disregard the last two months...... not so much. In my world, the whole season's performance counts, though. You can vote the way you like. I will do the same.
    • alarp33 likes this
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Champuckett
Oct 05 2016 03:54 AM

Dozier was an all-star last year.  It was no surprise he hit a lot of HRs again, but hitting 40+ was clearly a surprise.  He has had 3 decent seasons with good offensive stats coming into 2016.  Our best player by far for the year was obviously Dozier, but most improved?

 

I would give that to Nunez.  Even though he left midway through the season, he was a terror against other teams for the first few months of the season.  He had a high ba and would often steal 1-2 bases once he got on with an incredible 27 stolen bases in just 91 games (he lead the team this  year in that stat 9 more than the runner up).  He was never more than a gap filler in the lineup and an offensive+ utility infielder until this season where he locked down a starting job for the first time with the Twins.  He clearly made the most of it.

    • Kwak and Doomtints like this

 

Dozier. One monthers Buxton and Vargas? Naaaaa. Plus Vargas got worse after his month. Buxton at least ended the year on the upswing. Most disappointing.... Sano.

 

If Most Disappointing equals a 25-home runs season... the Twins are in for some exciting years ahead!!

    • h2oface and Doomtints like this

 

If you miss 1/3 of the season as a member of the Twins because you were traded and not a Twin...... Well, you can no longer be the most improved Twin because you are not a Twin. At least in my world.

 

Fair point, but when I sent out the "ballot," I didn't give any criteria for any of the awards, so the voters could determine their thoughts on this as well and pick as they choose. 

If Most Disappointing equals a 25-home runs season... the Twins are in for some exciting years ahead!!


That is the hope, eh? From what most predicted Sano would do this year (didn't you have a Sano prediction?) , it was a let down. Hey, plenty of room to improve, for the whole .230 club, which includes Sano, Kepler, Vargas, and Escobar, with Buxton knocking on the door in the .220 club. Remember, Arcia made the 20 homer club, and that was as exciting as it got. Yeah, I stick with Sano's season as most disappointing, with hopes he really decides to work on his craft and drop 20 pounds over the off season and really improve in 2017.

So, 42 possible points to be given out across 21 voting slots by 7 voters. Two pitchers out of the 21 slots on the list.

 

Sounds about right for what we saw this year.  I really hope we see mostly pitchers on this list next year.

 

That is the hope, eh? From what most predicted Sano would do this year (didn't you have a Sano prediction?) , it was a let down. Hey, plenty of room to improve, for the whole .230 club, which includes Sano, Kepler, Vargas, and Escobar, with Buxton knocking on the door in the .220 club. Remember, Arcia made the 20 homer club, and that was as exciting as it got. Yeah, I stick with Sano's season as most disappointing, with hopes he really decides to work on his craft and drop 20 pounds over the off season and really improve in 2017.

 

Oh yeah, I had him for like 40 homers and a .930+ OPS... I'm not saying it wasn't disappointing, but at the same time, he set the bar really high in 2015.

    • h2oface likes this

Dozier was the "overwhelming" choice when he got 13 points to Nunez's 8, and wasn't even on two of the seven ballots??


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