Dozier Tries To Find A Balance
Image courtesy of Ken Blaze, USA TodayAfter going 1-for-3 as the No. 3 hitter on Monday, Dozier is batting .364 this spring with six extra-base hits. A year ago he hit .367/.436/.694 in exhibition play. That paved the way for a phenomenal first half of the 2015 season.
His 871 OPS and 16 homers through the first three months led to his first All-Star nod and even some low-key MVP buzz. His drop-off after the break, though, was quite striking to most observers.
Not to him.
“I hear that all the time and I don’t really know why people always make a big deal out of the last couple months,” Dozier says. “I didn’t hit as many home runs, but I actually scored the same amount of runs, which is what I intend to do.”
“I don’t really see it as a lot of other people do as far as a down second half."
Well, that’s not exactly true. Even if we’re looking strictly at his frequency of crossing the plate, Dozier scored 67 runs in 88 games before the All-Star break (0.76 R/G) and 34 runs in 69 games thereafter (0.49 R/G), despite the entrenched presence of rookie slugger Miguel Sano behind him in the lineup.
He did still finish near the top of the American League in that particular category, tied for fifth with Lorenzo Cain, so perhaps that’s what he’s driving at.
But of course, the decline extended beyond homers and runs scored. His OPS dropped off by more than 200 points from the first half to the second as his gap power diminished and his on-base percentage took a dive. The latter development was particularly troubling given his role as a table-setter atop the order.
But the second baseman insists there’s more to it than numbers.
“You find other ways to help your team win. You do things that the normal person does not see but everyone in here sees.”
Even if he believes that the second-half swoon narrative is overblown, Dozier is making adjustments that he hopes will be conducive to end-to-end production.
A quick glance at his 2015 spray chart from FanGraphs shows just how pull-heavy he was at the plate. Dozier swatted the occasional fly ball or grounder the other way, but sent only a handful of liners (and two of his 28 home runs) toward right.
Given the starkness of this trend, it’s been impossible not to notice this spring that Dozier has already hit several hard balls to the opposite field, including one of his two homers.
He says this hasn’t been a specific focus, but rather the natural offshoot of another point of emphasis.
“Training my swing to cover more of the plate is something Bruno (hitting coach Tom Brunansky) and I have been working on this spring,” he says. “Whether it correlates to more balls going to right field or not I could really care less.”
These efforts have already yielded results in Grapefruit play. In one at-bat on Monday, Dozier flicked a borderline outside pitch back into the screen, then later got another on the outer half and drove it over the right side of second base into center for a single.
He knows his bread and butter – “being a pull hitter is definitely a strength of mine” – but being able to waste those pitches away that don’t play to his strength will prevent opposing pitchers from being able to take advantage.
As Albert Einstein once said, "Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” Hopefully a more balanced approach at the plate will allow Dozier to keep moving all the way to the regular-season finish line and beyond.
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