Twins Daily Awards 2016: 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:
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
Brian Dozier - 13
Eduardo Nunez - 8
Kennys Vargas - 7
Byron Buxton - 6
Max Kepler - 3
Buddy Boshers - 2
Kurt Suzuki - 2
Ryan Pressly - 1