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  • Behind Brian Dozier's Turnaround

    Brian Dozier puts a change into the ball against Kansas City.At the end of May, Minnesota Twins second baseman Brian Dozier was batting a sad .214/.259/.299 and providing little reassurance that he would be able to consistently hit major league pitching. Since then, however, Dozier has been on fire offensively and has posted a robust .254/.340/.492 line with 10 home runs in his last 270 plate appearances.

    This turnaround has been amazing for Dozier, but it has not been entirely unexpected. In the spring, Dozier showcased new mechanics
    that should have helped create a more firm platform out on his front foot as well allow him to open up his hip to better. Once the season started however his production remained static.

    Hitting coach Tom Brunansky is familiar with Dozier after working with him for several seasons in the minor leagues and tinkering with his swing. Brunansky admitted earlier in the season that his approach is about getting hitters to have a feel for the swing rather than replicate something visually. Dozierís problem, Brunansky diagnosed, was his timing.

    So, as 1500ESPN.comís Brandon Warne found out from Dozier and Brunansky recently, the second baseman began plotting on ways to improve his timing at the end of May:


    Dozier said he and Brunansky spent that night and most of the next day studying to get a feel where he was misfiring.

    They counted 'clicks' before the pitcher releases the ball to the time of contact. According to Dozier, the process starts once a hitter's foot hits the ground.

    "Once your foot is down, you start counting the clicks in your swing," Dozier said. "Good hitters who have their foot down can see the ball -- for instance, Mauer has eight or nine clicks -- and I was only having like three."
    In laymanís terms, Dozier was starting his swing way too late. This means that his lower-half was beginning late with the pitcherís rhythm and that his path to the pitch was going to be tardy. In spite of having a solid base, Dozierís swing was well behind of where he needed to be. Dozier himself admitted he found that he was behind several fastball in May that he should have been able handle.

    Although Dozier speaks towards the point of the foot strike, his timing was thrown off earlier than that Ė when he first would begin his swing at the foot lift:


    While facing this low-90s fastballs from left-handed pitchers, we see that Dozierís front foot lift begins much later in May (LEFT) than it in August (RIGHT). In the first instance, Dozier received a fastball middle-up and instead of pulling the ball, his timing is behind and he fights it off towards the right-center field gap.

    The next images are of his foot strike Ė the point where his front foot lands in his strike. Take notice where each pitch is in the examples. In May, the pitch is already on him. In August, the pitch has just been delivered. The latter gives him ample opportunity to read the ball and react instead of fighting off pitches.


    The same trend can be found for Dozier versus right-handed pitchers as well. In this example of earlier season versus late season, we see the same pattern Ė Dozier is beginning his swing much later.



    Why is Dozierís timing a huge issue? For starters, it means a better command of the strike zone as it gives him a longer (relative) look at each pitch. No longer does Dozier have troubles with in zone fastballs as his bat does not drag through the zone late. Now heís driving balls all over the zone, particularly on the inner-half.

    Notice in this heat map below that prior the end of May (LEFT), Dozier was struggling to do anything with pitches inside the strike zone. After May (RIGHT) Dozier was doing damage on those same pitches and was turning on those thrown inside (a location he struggled to do anything with prior to June). Since his and Brunanskyís work, that area of the strike zone has been one in which he has been most productive.

    (NOTE: Heat maps are views from catcher/umpire perspective.)

    While Dozierís heat map shows how well heís done at the plate, but his spray chart shows how well heís succeeding after the ball has been put into play. Advertised as a pull-ball hitter in the minor leagues, Dozier has not fulfilled that potential at the big league level. It is easy to conclude that part of what was impeding him has been his timing issue. As you can see in his spray chart below, prior to May (LEFT) Dozier did not hit much down the line. After making changes to his timing mechanism, Dozierís ability to pull the ball greatly increased. Here you see that the bulk of his hits since June 1 came down the left field line:


    Clearly, a vast majority of his hits have gone to the left side as he exhibited a significant amount of power to boot.

    Combined with his stellar defense, Dozierís offensive turnaround as made him one of the teamís top contributors at a position that has become increasingly more offense-oriented in recent years. It may seem like a completely subtle change, but timing Ė even fractions or fractions or seconds Ė can be vital to a playerís swing. Credit both Dozier as well as Brunansky for this surge.
    This article was originally published in blog: Behind Brian Dozier's Turnaround started by Parker Hageman
    Comments 20 Comments
    1. John Bonnes's Avatar
      John Bonnes -
      Quick questions:

      1. In the heat map, is it from the view of the batter or the pitcher? It seems it must be the batter if he left side are pitches he can pull. Is that right?

      2. In the spray chart, wouldn't the "new" one be like most MLB hitters? It's fairly common that the pull side is where most hits happen, right, since that's where the ball is hit the hardest?

      Thanks.
    1. snepp's Avatar
      snepp -
      Fantastic stuff, as usual.
    1. Oldgoat_MN's Avatar
      Oldgoat_MN -
      IMO, Dozier has been the most pleasant surprise of all the position players this year.

      I like the props he gave to Jamie Carroll.
      Obviously he listened to Bruno.

      Seems to have the right attitude to support success.

      Good for him and good for the Twins!
    1. Parker Hageman's Avatar
      Parker Hageman -
      In the heat map, is it from the view of the batter or the pitcher? It seems it must be the batter if he left side are pitches he can pull. Is that right?
      Correct. Almost all heat maps/pitchfx charts of the strike zone are from the catchers/umpires perspective.

      In the spray chart, wouldn't the "new" one be like most MLB hitters? It's fairly common that the pull side is where most hits happen, right, since that's where the ball is hit the hardest?
      Depends on the hitter, but yes, majority of hitters pull the ball.
    1. Monkeypaws's Avatar
      Monkeypaws -
      Nice stuff - funny, I noticed that very thing with Hunter back when he first started hitting with authority. His left foot got active pretty quickly.
    1. Badsmerf's Avatar
      Badsmerf -
      Great stuff Parker.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      Cool analysis, thanks.
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      Pitching is all about messing up a hitter's timing. Is there anything in the description of "clicks" that is different, that could somehow be uniquely exploited by a pitcher who knows this is how a batter is approaching things?
    1. specialiststeve's Avatar
      specialiststeve -
      Great stuff !!
    1. Dave T's Avatar
      Dave T -
      Quote Originally Posted by ashburyjohn View Post
      Pitching is all about messing up a hitter's timing. Is there anything in the description of "clicks" that is different, that could somehow be uniquely exploited by a pitcher who knows this is how a batter is approaching things?
      I have to think that anything that helps you get ready earlier to hit a fastball has the potential to hurt you with an offspeed pitch. Part of Albers success, I think, is how sloooow his slow curve is. 67 mph on the radar gun.
    1. twinsnorth49's Avatar
      twinsnorth49 -
      Great analysis, it's encouraging that Dozier has the smarts and talent to apply the changes and be successful with it, it's a good sign. Makes you wonder about guys like Parmelee though, granted he hasn't had the same opportunity but he has had a pretty good number of bats. A guy like Brunansky can find weaknesses and suggest changes, the athlete has to do it however
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Things like this are why the Bruno promotion this offseason was so exciting. Good stuff.
    1. diehardtwinsfan's Avatar
      diehardtwinsfan -
      Quote Originally Posted by twinsnorth49 View Post
      Great analysis, it's encouraging that Dozier has the smarts and talent to apply the changes and be successful with it, it's a good sign. Makes you wonder about guys like Parmelee though, granted he hasn't had the same opportunity but he has had a pretty good number of bats. A guy like Brunansky can find weaknesses and suggest changes, the athlete has to do it however
      I don't know... Parm worked with Bruno last year in AAA during his monster campaign. Personally, I think Parm tends to be too patient, though others around here think his batspeed just isn't quick enough.
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      It's been said that Parm has been getting beat on good major league fastballs, so it seems like the same advice that's worked for Dozier ought to help him too.
    1. Major Leauge Ready's Avatar
      Major Leauge Ready -
      Very interesting stuff.
    1. spycake's Avatar
      spycake -
      Hey -- I remember the same author posting an article earlier this year, predicting Dozier would have success due to an improving SO:BB rate and hitting the ball to the opposite field. Yup, here it is:

      Twins Daily - Why You Should Expect A Rebound From Brian Dozier

      Hopefully this article's contention about his new pull power stroke holds up better!
    1. Parker Hageman's Avatar
      Parker Hageman -
      I remember the same author posting an article earlier this year, predicting Dozier would have success due to an improving SO:BB rate and hitting the ball to the opposite field.
      Well, the K/BB rate is MUCH improved. The downside is that his ability to go the other way more early in the year was a product of bad timing and not intentional. Since he fixed his timing, he's almost been exclusively hitting the ball left of second base. So...whatever.

      More importantly, like the images that are shown in that previous article, he isn't attempting to pull pitches on the outer-half of the plate like he did last year, which is likely a product of understanding the strike zone.
    1. troyhobbs's Avatar
      troyhobbs -
      Quote Originally Posted by TheLeviathan View Post
      Things like this are why the Bruno promotion this offseason was so exciting. Good stuff.
      Before we give Bruno too much credit it's worth noting that the Twins have the 5th worst team BA in the MLB and their offense was supposed to be their strength going in to the year. Not that I think Bruno doesn't know hitting but I give much more credit to Dozier for making the adjustments.
    1. Mr. Brooks's Avatar
      Mr. Brooks -
      Quote Originally Posted by troyhobbs View Post
      Before we give Bruno too much credit it's worth noting that the Twins have the 5th worst team BA in the MLB and their offense was supposed to be their strength going in to the year. Not that I think Bruno doesn't know hitting but I give much more credit to Dozier for making the adjustments.
      I'm not sure how you could possibly be so confident, one way or the other, without being around the team.
      As for the season totals, it's his first season. You don't fix things over night, and to be honest, outside of Mauer, Arcia and Willingham, there isn't much offensive talent on this team
    1. troyhobbs's Avatar
      troyhobbs -
      Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Brooks View Post
      I'm not sure how you could possibly be so confident, one way or the other, without being around the team.
      As for the season totals, it's his first season. You don't fix things over night, and to be honest, outside of Mauer, Arcia and Willingham, there isn't much offensive talent on this team
      Just giving a different perspective, we don't know he's a great coach without stronger results eirher. Without Mauer's stats the team BA is even sadder and we know Bruno didn't teach Mauer to hit. Trust me, I want Bruno to be successful but 1 guy in the lineup showing improvement isn't enough to convince me.
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