Dozier Hasn't Changed and Could Pay Big For Twins
Image courtesy of © Brad Rempel-USA TODAY SportsRecently, Patrick Reusse wrote a nice article on Dozier in the Star Tribune. The backbone of the column was that Dozier has provided the Twins with an immense amount of value. That’s absolutely spot on and in buying out his arbitration years, the Twins found themselves cashing in big on Brian. For what it’s worth, Fangraphs values Dozier’s production from 2015 until today at $124.7 million; Minnesota will have paid him $20 million at the end of 2018.
Where I found myself intrigued, and looking for more information, was the notion that Dozier’s 2018 can be categorized as lackluster. In noting both his run scoring ability and .230 batting average, there were points to suggest that this isn’t what we’ve seen from Brian over the past few years. Fortunately for the player, Dozier himself, and a potential team that may acquire him, those things seem to be a bit blown out of proportion.
As of July 18, Brian Dozier owned a .230/.314/.423 slash line. He had scored 60 runs and had launched 16 homers. Here’s how that baseline compares to each of the past two seasons:
7/18/17- .250/.336/.440 43 R 15 HR
7/18/16- .247/.332/.454 48 R 15 HR
We can see here, that nothing is that incredibly out of whack during 2018. Although Dozier’s slash line has sagged across the board, there isn’t egregious movement anywhere. Despite batting outside of the leadoff spot (which should’ve taken place much sooner), Brian has continued to cross the plate. While, individually, runs aren’t the most important part of the game on offense (getting on base is), the Twins second basemen has continued to score at a very solid clip. His walk totals remain in line with previous production, coming in at essentially a 1:2 ratio alongside strikeouts.
As a whole, nothing on the surface suggests that the status quo has been thrown off for the Mississippi native. In an attempt to figure out where the sag is coming from, the advanced metrics help to paint a bit better picture. In 2018, Dozier is both swinging and missing, as well as chasing pitches, less often. He’s making hard contact at a career high rate, and his BABIP is relatively normalized. The area that jumps out to me is the type of balls he’s putting into play.
For a dead pull hitter like Dozier, elevating pitches has always been his plan. That’s the correct route to go, but in 2018 he’s seen a slight shift in flight path that’s allowed too many negative outcomes for balls in play. After a 19% line drive rate last season, that number has dipped to 14.7% in 2018. His nearly 40% ground ball rate is a career high, and his fly ball rate sits at 46.2%. As a whole, the numbers have combined to produce just a 12.1% HR/FB rate, which is his lowest total since 2014. For Dozier to have optimal success he needs to be hitting line drives and fly balls with closer to ideal launch angles. Any time he’s putting the ball on the ground, a negative outcome can be expected.
What it comes down to for Brian is finding a more harmonious combination of batted ball trajectories. There isn’t a singular formula that works. In 2015 when Dozier hit 28 homers, he owned just a 13.1% HR/FB rate. However, he also owned a 22.6% LD rate that season and hit the ball on the ground just 33% of the time. In 2016 when he blasted 42 long balls, there was an 18.4% HR/FB thanks to a career best 47.7% FB rate. Right now, taking away ground balls and adding those outcomes to line drives and fly balls would help make up ground.
As a whole however, this current version of Dozier isn’t far off from what he’s been any of the previous two seasons. In 2015, he went gangbusters prior to the All-Star break and then slid from there. Since then, he’s become a guy known for his second half outbursts. There’s no reason to believe that isn’t the same scenario waiting to play itself out.
In 15 games during July, Dozier owns a .298/.369/.632 slash line. It’s brought his season OPS up nearly .50 points and could be a precursor for the breakout we’ve come to expect. Given the state of the Twins as a whole, and reality that Dozier will move on following the conclusion of this season, I’d still be looking to move him right now. Allowing another team, or even this fan base, to talk down his current production or projection the rest of the way would be a misstep however.
The Twins were right to hold on to Dozier a couple of winters ago when the Dodgers were willing to give up only Jose De Leon in return. Minnesota is now also right in looking at moving him, and I’d hardly be shocked if the return doesn’t work out better at this current juncture.
Far too often there’s a tendency to be enamored with a poor batting average or a quick assessment regarding what we may have seen. While the 40+ home run outlier shouldn’t have ever become the expectation, a full 162 game season from even the 2018 version of Brian Dozier would still be one of the best at the position in all of baseball.