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Molitor, does he actually "get it"?

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 04:49 AM
This game was as poorly managed as I have ever seen, guy hasn't improved at all. Baring a playoff berth he better be gone at seasons end.
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Benching Sano two days in a row

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 12:06 AM
Seriously? Good lord, every time Molitor takes a step forward he takes 3 steps back. Benching your best player back to back games bc of a...
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Game Thread: Twins v Rays, 5/28 @ 1:10pm CT

Minnesota Twins Talk Yesterday, 11:03 PM
My ten years as a stringer – a freelance sportswriter for The Associated Press – spanned two distinct baseball eras. During the first, 19...
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Gimenez vs Garver

Minnesota Twins Talk Yesterday, 11:00 PM
Personally, IMHO, part of the overall success and quality play of our beloved Twins this season has been the addition of Castro and Gimin...
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Brian Dozier Pulls Himself Out Of Slump

Brian Dozier is predisposed to prolonged slumps.

Over the past two years those stretches have come in the latter portion. In 2014 Dozier had a sharp decline in home runs, hitting just five after jacking 18 pre-All Star Break. Masking the power outage was the fact he maintained a solid on-base presence. Last season, however, not only did the home runs evaporate but the batting average and on-base abilities did too, leading to a sad .210/.280/.359 batting line as the Twins’ slim playoff chances slipped away.

The good news is that this season it seems that the Twins’ second baseman has been kind enough to hold his annual slump in the first-half, getting the depressing numbers out of the way at the beginning of the year.
Image courtesy of Brad Rempel, USA TODAY
Dozier, as anyone who has followed the team even for a second could tell you, has transformed into a dead-pull hitter. Last year he led baseball in pull-happy tendencies by taking 62 percent of all batted balls to the left side. In fact, dating back to 2009, it was the pull-happiest season on record. Think about that: Over the past seven years, no one has been as much of a yanker as middle infielder Brian Dozier.

“Why don’t I hit more balls to right?” Dozier asked prior to the 2015 season in the midst of a conversation about his hitting success. “Why do you want to go out to right when the shortest distance is to left?”

With that, Dozier began a season in which he hammered out a career-high 28 home runs...but also fell off the face of the earth in the season’s dog days. Even as others in the organization have criticized it, he is unabashedly unapologetic about his approach. Not everyone was satisfied with his mindset at the plate. Manager Paul Molitor had discussed the topic with KSTP’s Darren Wolfson this spring, raising questions about how the team feels about Dozier’s offensive identity.

“It’s kind of maybe caused a little confusion as where his ultimate value offensively is going to be,” Molitor said. “Do I sit back and try to hit more home runs? Do I still try to spray the ball around and be a good base runner and score runs?”

From the Twins’ perspective, the second baseman/two-hitter isn’t suppose to pull the ball all the time. They see the position as someone who slaps a pitch the other way when there is a runner on first, moving that runner along even if it means recording an out at the plate. Dozier’s play was often viewed as selfish and the team’s announcers were quick to point it out as such.

Like many others, Tom Brunansky watched as Dozier struggled with pitches on the outer half, hitting just .185 in the second-half last year when pitchers went away. This past spring training Brunansky shared what he felt was ailing Dozier’s swing and what the pair were doing to rectify it. At no point did he discuss using the entire field or going the other way. Simply put, Brunansky wanted to see Dozier drive the ball on the outer half into any part of the field.

“On the middle-out pitch it’s like [the barrel] gets there and then it tries to finish really quick. We’ve talked about extension of the barrel through the zone a little bit more,” Brunansky said. “He’s always had great plate coverage, it’s just, on that pitch out there, he sees it, the barrel gets to it but it never finishes.”

The two would have long discussions on hitting philosophy and Dozier would just smile or roll his eyes playfully when they talk of using the entire field would come up. He emphasized that the prolonged slump of 2015 opened Dozier’s eyes to the possibility of altering his swing.

“He looks at me and laughs, and he looks at me and makes some comments,” Brunansky said about getting through to Dozier about modifying his swing. “But we have a relationship enough were we trust each other.”

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When the season started, Dozier faced a new challenge: a defensive shift.

Teams moved their second baseman to the shortstop side of second base to combat Dozier’s pull-heavy tendencies and then would pepper the other side of the plate, hoping he would fall right into their trap. In 45 of his 106 April plate appearances, he came to the plate facing this alignment. Shift or no, Dozier did not hit: He batted .205 with the shift and he batted .214 without a shift.

By May, Dozier and Brunansky had found a new problem that they felt needed correcting. Film study had revealed that Dozier had moved up too close to the plate, causing him to pass on some better pitches on the inner-half.

"I didn't even know I was doing it, but I got into the habit of having my feet almost on the white line over the plate," Dozier told MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger. "Some of the pitches that were close to hitting me, I realized were actually middle-in or over the plate. So mentally, it got me in the habit of trying to cheat on inside pitches. And I was swinging at balls way off the plate that I thought were on the black. So it was totally different than last year."

Attached Image: Doizer_Plate.png


Even if it was mere inches in the batter’s box, cheating for pitches on the inner-half would cause him to overpull or miss the sweet spot of his bat on pitches inside that he would normally crush. Plus, it made the outer-half unhittable.

Despite the attempted adjustments, by May 23rd Minnesota Twins’ All-Star second baseman was hitting under .200 and relegated to the bench. His offensive season was an unsightly mess and it opened the floodgates for mounds of criticism what became viewed as a stubborn approach. With each plate appearance, more condemnation of his methods.

“It’s pull mode, (swinging) out of the zone and trying to do too much,” Ryan told reporters. “It’s basically everything we saw in August and September. They bunch you on the left side. He’s hitting pop-ups in the air, and they aren’t going over the fence like they were last year. That means he’s probably not getting a pitch he can handle.”

At the deepest, darkest depths of his season, Dozier turned a corner. On May 25th he was back in the starting lineup and tagged a hanging curve from Kansas City’s Dillon Gee into the second deck at Target Field. He followed that the next day with a deep double at Safeco off of Felix Hernandez. That kicked off ten consecutive games of reaching base and Dozier’s average began to rise.


Attached Image: output_r7sZUK.gif


Dozier, however, didn’t pull out of his funk by going the other way. He was able to find success by pulling the ball MORE.

Attached Image: Dozier.PNG


Certainly Dozier saw success when he did drive a few pitches for extra base hits into the right-center gap. And he was gifted a double after flaring a ball down the right field line that could have been caught had the outfield not been shifted around to protect against his pull tendencies. Several of those pitches were down-and-away that Dozier actually drove -- a sign that the work with Brunansky to keep the barrel in the zone longer was paying off.

In short, Dozier is back to who he has been in the past. For the month of June, Dozier is hitting .333/.413/.580 while pulling the ball at a 63 percent clip. He has addressed the issue with his swing and it did not have to do with going the other way. The hand-wringing over his extreme pull tendencies needs to stop.


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36 Comments

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TheLeviathan
Jun 24 2016 09:48 AM

I'm glad he's adjusted and is back to hitting.  But doesn't his limited profile as a hitter (Hulk Pull!!) sort of make adjusting to him easier for pitchers?

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Parker Hageman
Jun 24 2016 09:59 AM
I'm glad he's adjusted and is back to hitting.But doesn't his limited profile as a hitter (Hulk Pull!!) sort of make adjusting to him easier for pitchers?

 

 

It certainly hurts his average and his standing with some within the organization but it depends on what you value. As I pointed out last year, some of the second-half slump was due to pitchers changing what they were throwing to him and when they were throwing it.

 

http://twinsdaily.co...ver-again-r4179

 

Dozier is an admitted fastball hunter. I believe he was thrown wrinkles more often in counts he had previously seen more fastballs. 

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TheLeviathan
Jun 24 2016 10:06 AM

I don't care how he accumulates his OPS (other than, hopefully, being less streaky), but I worry he profiles as a guy that will always have difficulty maintaining his production just because of how he has built his attack.

 

For me, he can "Hulk Pull!" all he wants....as long as he does it more consistently.

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Parker Hageman
Jun 24 2016 10:32 AM
I don't care how he accumulates his OPS (other than, hopefully, being less streaky), but I worry he profiles as a guy that will always have difficulty maintaining his production just because of how he has built his attack.

 

 

Right, and I think you share the concerns that we have heard on broadcasts and in print over the last few seasons. Dozier's batting average will always suffer because of it. 

 

I think there are some members of the staff who feel that because Dozier plays a position and hits in a particular spot in the order, he needs to hit like it. Dozier, hard headed, enjoyed being a power hitter. I think there was definitely some tug-o-war about his approach and some of the trying to "fix it" actually led to more issues. If he feels more comfortable being the power hitter-type (and it's working), they need to just let him be.

 

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nicksaviking
Jun 24 2016 10:49 AM

Sometimes Dozier appears to be the clear clubhouse leader. Other times he sounds like a stubborn teenager.

 

 

The two would have long discussions on hitting philosophy and Dozier would just smile or roll his eyes playfully when they talk of using the entire field would come up.

 

I mean, I understand the desire to have some veterans even if I personally want very few of them, but just because a guy is nearing 30 doesn't necessarily make him a good role model or mature.

 

Even if rolling your eyes at a coach's instruction is innocuous or taken out of context in this situation, stubbornly sticking with your personal approach when superiors would prefer you try to alter it probably isn't presenting the best message for the younger guys.

 

Do we want Buxton or Sano to get the idea they can do things their way?

    • TheLeviathan, Platoon and d-mac like this
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Brock Beauchamp
Jun 24 2016 10:53 AM

 

I think there are some members of the staff who feel that because Dozier plays a position and hits in a particular spot in the order, he needs to hit like it.

Play second, bat second.

    • HitInAPinch and d-mac like this
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Parker Hageman
Jun 24 2016 10:59 AM
Do we want Buxton or Sano to get the idea they can do things their way?

 

 

I'd argue that Buxton has had development issues to some extent because he was listening too much. The reason he is just re-adding his leg kick this season is because of instruction at the lower levels. And I'll admit it is difficult to turn down advice at that age and level but sometimes it is for the best.

 

Every player needs to own their swing. They should certainly take advice but, in the end, it's their careers on the line. As Brunansky explained to me this spring, sometimes you got to get to the point where Dozier was at last year in order to listen to some of the advice as well. 

 

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Hosken Bombo Disco
Jun 24 2016 11:05 AM

Do we want Buxton or Sano to get the idea they can do things their way?

Yes? :)
    • Dozier's Glorious Hair likes this
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ashburyjohn
Jun 24 2016 11:09 AM

 

 

Brian Dozier Pulls Himself Out Of Slump

 

what-you-did-there-i-see-it-quote-1.jpg

    • Parker Hageman and d-mac like this
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LA VIkes Fan
Jun 24 2016 11:19 AM

Play second, bat 5 or 6. Sano bats 4, Mauer and Grossman split 2 and 3. 

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TheLeviathan
Jun 24 2016 11:46 AM

 

I think there are some members of the staff who feel that because Dozier plays a position and hits in a particular spot in the order, he needs to hit like it. Dozier, hard headed, enjoyed being a power hitter. I think there was definitely some tug-o-war about his approach and some of the trying to "fix it" actually led to more issues. If he feels more comfortable being the power hitter-type (and it's working), they need to just let him be.

 

I truly hope you're wrong about that Parker, but I suspect you're right.  That kind of thinking has plagued the organization for awhile.

 

I'm fine with him being a feast or famine hitter and the Twins should be too.  Just let him hit 6th or 7th while he does it and let him be who he is.

    • Hosken Bombo Disco and d-mac like this

Not sure what thread this should go in:

 

mike sixel
10:48 Thanks for the Breakside nachos recommendation a few months ago....yummy. Is Dozier part the future for the Twins, or should they deal him if they find a taker at an ok price?
Jeff Sullivan
10:48 BREAKSIDE
10:49 The Twins need to make an honest evaluation of how far away they really are. You can squint and see the upside but to me it really does feel like they won't contend until 2018 at the earliest. At that point, Dozier's in his walk year and he's in his early 30s, so he's probably a trade candidate, as tough as that might be to swallow
He feels like an offseason trade more than a midseason trade

    • Hosken Bombo Disco likes this
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Taildragger8791
Jun 24 2016 12:33 PM

I want to be okay with Dozier's approach, but he needs to drastically decrease the length and severity of his slumps to justify it. Hitting below replacement level for 2-4 months at a time seriously hinders the lineup's effectiveness. Consistency counts for something too, not just career averages. Like a "volume scorer" in basketball who's jumpshot goes cold, you have to keep giving them shots until they get going because you're dependent on that production. Meanwhile, you're digging yourself into holes and losing winnable games. What do you do with Dozier if he's mired in an extended slump come playoff time?

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terrydactyls1947
Jun 24 2016 12:47 PM
What are these playoffs of which you speak? I am not aware of these things. :)
    • Parker Hageman, nicksaviking and Platoon like this
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Taildragger8791
Jun 24 2016 01:29 PM

 

What are these playoffs of which you speak? I am not aware of these things. :)

 

I know you jest, but I was trying to be optimistic about the future and the playoffs should be what we're building for, right? It may be 2018 or 2019, but if Dozier is still supposed to be considered part of the future then his performance should be analyzed in that context. I'm glad he's showing some life again and if he somehow sustains it that would be awesome. But, as the article stated, he's probably still going to be prone to long slumps due to matchups and adjustments and that could be a big liability when everything gets tighter in October/September.

 

We should be thinking about what it takes to win championships, not just build a .500 record and be relevant. His past performance may average out over a long season to look palatable, but in a short winner-take-all series it could sink you. A top-half of the order hitter that can be wiped out by careful pitching and shifts is a liability in the playoffs when your opponent fields top of the line pitchers and defense almost every night. Maybe I'm being too idealist, but I'm tired of trying to find reasons to be content with "not that bad" instead of asking for "good" and "great".

    • d-mac likes this

Should have put this here, not in the FG thread:

 

http://www.fangraphs...t-of-the-slump/

 

    • Parker Hageman and d-mac like this

First couple months, pitchers were relentless pitching Dozier down and outside, almost never anything inside, except ankle high. For some reason they are starting to pitch him more around the zone, I don' know why. I would NEVER give him anything inside, other than chin music or throw it at his foot.

 

Despite a relatively hot month, I'm skeptical that Dozier is going to stay hot. There is nothing stopping pitchers from returning to what killed his average so far this season. I would always make him prove he can take the ball the other way. He's just not that dangerous going oppo. 

    • Dman and Platoon like this

First couple months, pitchers were relentless pitching Dozier down and outside, almost never anything inside, except ankle high. For some reason they are starting to pitch him more around the zone, I don' know why. I would NEVER give him anything inside, other than chin music or throw it at his foot.

Despite a relatively hot month, I'm skeptical that Dozier is going to stay hot. There is nothing stopping pitchers from returning to what killed his average so far this season. I would always make him prove he can take the ball the other way. He's just not that dangerous going oppo.


Because if it was that easy to throw the ball exactly where you want, they'd all be Greg Maddux.
    • SwainZag, Willihammer and Dozier's Glorious Hair like this
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Brock Beauchamp
Jun 24 2016 08:25 PM

Because if it was that easy to throw the ball exactly where you want, they'd all be Greg Maddux.

Beat me to it. Pitchers have some finesse where they throw the ball but mistakes happen *all the time*. Lots of guys have built solid careers on just getting by on good pitches and mashing bad ones.
    • Dozier's Glorious Hair likes this
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WiesbadenDAN
Jun 25 2016 02:46 AM

 

 I would NEVER give him anything inside, other than chin music or throw it at his foot.

 

The thing is, if Dozier gets his swing mechanics and strike zone judgement right he can pull anything on the plate. This includes the outer black, however when he is bad he seems to try and pull pitches in the other batters box and if what he says is true about a complete loss of zone judgement that would be a mess. Then you never have to throw him a strike.

 

I think Jimbo has a definite point. He has seen an inordinate amount of mistakes. And if you go back and look, at least on tv replay, he is getting a large amount of pitches in his sweet spot. We also have not been exactly facing this years list of Cy Young candidates lately, as the teams recent overall hitting seems to show. He also seems to have hit an awful lot of foul GB which used to go to the third baseman. A lot of hitters have a hole in their zone, let's say 35% of the zone. With Dozier it's likely reversed. His hits in about 35% of the zone, and is virtually an automatic out otherwise. While he has been able to foul off some good two strike pitches, good pitchers are going to keep eating him up with that amount of a weakness.
I'm not so sure you can these prolonged stretches of ineptitude at the plate from Dozier "slumps."

I think it's more accurate to say that's the player he always is, and that he occasionally gets hot when pitchers forget not to throw him inside. A "slump" carries implications of uncharacteristic struggles for a few weeks here or there. It's the opposite with him. He's bad the majority of the time, with stretches here and there where he is absolutely on fire.

He brings some nice things to the table at all times (gets on base, runs the bases, isn't awful defensively), but I think he is wildly overrated by many Twins (thinking he's the guy we saw in the first half of '15, as opposed to second half of '15/first half of '16).
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jorgenswest
Jun 25 2016 12:47 PM
ZIPS projection of 106 wRC+ for Dozier is a match for his performance at the moment. That performance is slightly above the typical performance at 2B. The Twins need more of these guys. Not less. Any trade needs to bring a valuable piece to the 2017 team.
    • USAFChief, Hosken Bombo Disco and Dozier's Glorious Hair like this
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Dozier's Glorious Hair
Jun 25 2016 07:58 PM

 

I think Jimbo has a definite point. He has seen an inordinate amount of mistakes. And if you go back and look, at least on tv replay, he is getting a large amount of pitches in his sweet spot. We also have not been exactly facing this years list of Cy Young candidates lately, as the teams recent overall hitting seems to show. He also seems to have hit an awful lot of foul GB which used to go to the third baseman. A lot of hitters have a hole in their zone, let's say 35% of the zone. With Dozier it's likely reversed. His hits in about 35% of the zone, and is virtually an automatic out otherwise. While he has been able to foul off some good two strike pitches, good pitchers are going to keep eating him up with that amount of a weakness.

 

Eh, this seems to me like reaching for excuses for why Dozier is hitting again. The reality is that his numbers are simply rising to meet his normal level. His OPS stats the past three seasons (including this one) are .757, .751, .761. Can anybody really look at those numbers and say he's NOT a .750 OPS guy? That's what he is, folks. Nobody should be surprised that his OPS didn't stay in the .620 range.

    • USAFChief, jorgenswest and stringer bell like this

Good.Trade him

    • birdwatcher, TheLeviathan and laloesch like this

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