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  • More Dingers for Dozier?

    Letís just start by saying that in his second tour of duty in the major league, Brian Dozier fared better than in his first stint.

    After a dismal 2012 season, he managed to improve his walk rate and power numbers to finish the year as one of the teamís top contributions. Faint praise, however, considering the lineupís surprising lack of offense overall.

    That said, Dozierís in-season development was impressive. After a working with hitting coach Tom Brunansky, the infielder was able to make a timing adjustment that paid dividends in the seasonís second-half. The adjustment allowed Dozier to combine the changes he made with his hips in spring training with proper timing to drive the ball on the inner-half of the plate. The results were 18 home runs -- the highest total by a Twinsí second baseman in team history.

    Will this equate to potential big home run numbers in 2014, too? Eh, not so fast.

    One thing that needs to be taken into consideration is where his home run pitches were located. According to ESPNtrumediaís database, 11 of his 18 home runs were located in the upper-third of the hitting zone:

    Brian Dozier's 2013 home runs, by location

    This represents a very high percentage of his home runs and something that hitters do not typically match, year-in and year-out. In 2013, only Arizonaís Paul Goldschmidt (17) hit more home runs on pitches in the upper-third of the strike zone than Dozier.

    For the past several years this leader board has had plenty of turnover. In 2012 another Diamondback, Aaron Hill, led baseball with 13 home runs on pitches in the upper-third. The year before that it was Josh Willingham (16) in Oakland and, before that, Albert Pujols (20).

    Why this appears to be an unrepeatable skill may be influenced by the oppositionís change in approach. If you know that Albert Pujols is going to launch one on a pitch up in the zone, you would avoid that space like the plague. On the other hand, it may simply be luck. Despite major league pitchersí best efforts, they still miss their spots from time to time and the ability to capitalize on those mistakes by depositing them into the seats may take a stroke of good fortune for the hitter.

    Beyond that, Dozier faced a very high percentage of fastballs. This may be because he was a non-threatening factor in 2012 but has since made it clear he can handle the heat. Last year, he saw fastballs 57% of the time whereas the league average was 53%. On fastballs Dozier hit a healthy .273/.353/.517 but hit just .196/.239/.249 on non-fastballs. If you were concocting a game plan to combat the Twinsí lineup, the directive would likely be to throw Dozier fewer fastballs in 2014 Ė at the very least, fewer fastballs up in the zone.

    This is not to cause despair for Dozierís 2014 season. After all, his plate discipline was a significant step forward as he reduced his chase rate considerably, from 32% in í12 to 26%; he also stopped swinging at everything as his swing rate dropped from 49% in Ď12 to 40% in 2013. Those indicators bode well for his comprehension of the zone and his development as a hitter.
    This article was originally published in blog: More Dingers for Dozier? started by Parker Hageman
    Comments 31 Comments
    1. JP3700's Avatar
      JP3700 -
      Great stuff Parker, as always.

      As the league adjusts to him, Dozier is going to have to show that he can adjust as well.

      If he can continue being near league average at the plate, his defense makes him a 3-4 win player. I'm a big Dozier fan.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      If you compare Dozier 2012 with Dozier 2013, you will find in the 2013 version:

      Same BABIP
      close BA
      higher OBP (because of double the BB%)
      higher SLG (because of almost double the HR/FB rate and little higher FB%)
      same LD%
      little higher K%

      I think that both of those drivers (the higher selectivity and the pull swing that likely resulted in the higher HR/FB rate) might be sustainable, and I want that to happen, because he is an easy guy to root for.

      About how well he did with individual pitches (and PitchF/X @ FG is my source here) Looks like he did make a huge turnaround on how he hits the FB, but he also had positive results against cutters, two-seamers and curves. Changeups, sliders and knuckleballs were his week points.
    1. Paul Pleiss's Avatar
      Paul Pleiss -
      If Dozier continues to produce offensively in 2014 I'll be okay with his shorter hair. If he struggles he should grow back his beautiful mane.
    1. Paul Pleiss's Avatar
      Paul Pleiss -
      Quote Originally Posted by Thrylos View Post
      If you compare Dozier 2012 with Dozier 2013, you will find in the 2013 version:

      Same BABIP
      close BA
      higher OBP (because of double the BB%)
      higher SLG (because of almost double the HR/FB rate and little higher FB%)
      same LD%
      little higher K%
      I really enjoy that Thrylos almost always seems to post the stats I am most curious about after reading an article. Great work.
    1. zchrz's Avatar
      zchrz -
      He should continue to get a decent amount of fast balls with Mauer hitting behind him, teams don't want to put him on base or waste too many pitches nibbling at him. Despite the home runs he didn't hit for that high an average so challenging him early in the count is still an attractive option. At least to my eye test it wasn't all meat balls he did his damage on, whereas Plouffe's power outburst from 2 years ago was really just 2 months where he didn't miss a fat pitch. I think Dozier will continue to be a 15-20 home run threat.
    1. Parker Hageman's Avatar
      Parker Hageman -
      Plouffe and Dozier are very different types of hitters. Consider this, when being pitched down-and-in, Plouffe thrived, batting .333 on those pitches (13th best in MLB). Meanwhile, Dozier was the absolute worst at .045 on pitches down-and-in.
    1. DocBauer's Avatar
      DocBauer -
      Dozier is a good all around athlete. And he wouldn't be the first player to develop more power as he matures physically in to his prime, and with good instruction and adjustments develops said power.

      Now, that being said, a dip in power, but a return to a higher Avg. and OB%, more in keeping with what he showed in the minors, wouldn't be a bad thing. Now, if he can do both, wow.
    1. Dman's Avatar
      Dman -
      Like most on this site I go back and forth on Dozier. I want to believe that he will be better than last year as he had a really nice second half. Since most of his success came largely from one area of the plate it seems likely that there will be some regression as he adjusts to the new approaches likely thrown his way this coming season. As much as I believe in Dozier I think he will likely have a tough year next year and IMO he will regress. I hope I can eat some crow for this comment.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      This seems like a pretty textbook way for a young player to find success. I worry the league's adjustment to him is going to force some really significant struggles on Dozier.

      Hopefully he adjusts enough himself that we can count on him long-term.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by TheLeviathan View Post
      This seems like a pretty textbook way for a young player to find success. I worry the league's adjustment to him is going to force some really significant struggles on Dozier.

      Hopefully he adjusts enough himself that we can count on him long-term.
      His power is almost certain to regress but I look at a decrease in overall swings, a decrease in swings outside the zone, and a guy who is laying off breaking balls and see a player who has a floor of an acceptable stop-gap solution at second with an upside of 2-3 wins on a yearly basis.

      The key to Brian Dozier is not getting lucky with homers, it's not swinging at bad pitches. Players who don't swing at bad pitches rarely play their way out of a lineup.
    1. Siehbiscuit's Avatar
      Siehbiscuit -
      My only fear with Dozier isn't his physical ability at all or even his ability to adjust. I worry more about he and Gardy putting more offensive responsibility on him than he deserves. He is a solid offensive 2B, but no one should confuse him with Ryne Sandberg. Dozier could bat in the 2-hole in a traditional lineup, or he should be hitting at best 6th or more likely 7th in a "real" MLB lineup. If he is expected shoulder more of the offensive load, I think he will fail. Getting offense out of Brian Dozier is great for this team, but not something Gardy should be building around.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post
      The key to Brian Dozier is not getting lucky with homers, it's not swinging at bad pitches. Players who don't swing at bad pitches rarely play their way out of a lineup.
      He also got a disproportionate number of good pitches to hit. Yes, he won't get himself out as easily....but will he have as much success when his strengths are no longer being pitched to? Especially when he has clear weaknesses. (As in, anything not a fastball)
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by TheLeviathan View Post
      He also got a disproportionate number of good pitches to hit. Yes, he won't get himself out as easily....but will he have as much success when his strengths are no longer being pitched to? Especially when he has clear weaknesses. (As in, anything not a fastball)
      Well, I think there's more to it than that. Here are Dozier's 2012/2013 swings/pitches broken down:

      Overall Swing %: 48.0%/40.0%

      Strikezone Swing %: 61.8%/54.0%

      Outside Strikezone Swing %: 34.7%/28.9%

      Balls thrown in Strikezone %: 48.9%/44.1%

      Contact %: 84.5%/84.6%

      Pitches per Plate Appearance: 3.69/4.17

      In 2013, Brian Dozier was thrown less strikes but swung at a fewer percentage of pitches. He swung at fewer pitches outside the zone. His contact rate remained steady.

      Basically, he made huge gains in pitch recognition and swung at hitter's pitches while learning to lay off junk pitches. That kind of transformation leads to sustained success, whether pitchers are throwing him fastballs or not. If they're not throwing him hittable pitches, he has shown the discipline to not swing and take the walk instead or wait out the pitcher until he's forced to throw a fastball.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post
      Basically, he made huge gains in pitch recognition and swung at hitter's pitches while learning to lay off junk pitches. That kind of transformation leads to sustained success, whether pitchers are throwing him fastballs or not. If they're not throwing him hittable pitches, he has shown the discipline to not swing and take the walk instead.
      The problem is he made most of his hay off those fastballs. He had a great rebound year, but a significant dip in his power production would greatly impact his overall numbers. And that's exactly what might happen if people are no longer feeding him fastballs at a higher rate.

      The key is that if he's not getting pitches to belt out of the park, that he's turning that into a better OBP. With the league adjusting to him that going to be difficult. We're all rooting for him to make that adjustment, but I feel like people are banking on it more than they ought to. Many talented players have failed at it.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by TheLeviathan View Post
      The problem is he made most of his hay off those fastballs. He had a great rebound year, but a significant dip in his power production would greatly impact his overall numbers. And that's exactly what might happen if people are no longer feeding him fastballs at a higher rate.

      The key is that if he's not getting pitches to belt out of the park, that he's turning that into a better OBP. With the league adjusting to him that going to be difficult. We're all rooting for him to make that adjustment, but I feel like people are banking on it more than they ought to. Many talented players have failed at it.
      Greatly impact his numbers, yes. Make him a bad MLB starter, no, I don't think so.

      Which is why I think Dozier's floor is somewhere just north of a .700 OPS. If he's laying off bad pitches, his OBP should maintain a respectable floor making him a solid, if unspectacular, player.

      After all, that's how mediocre players make their hay. Fight off good pitches and lace the occasional bad pitch. As long as Dozier continues to fight off good pitches and lay off pitches outside the zone, he should be fine.
    1. Willihammer's Avatar
      Willihammer -
      Nice writeup. I think anytime a hitter establishes a wheelhouse it is a positive; it should lead to more balls as pitchers avoid it. If Dozier's minor league stats are any indication, he has the eye to lay off the junk and take his walks.
    1. jay's Avatar
      jay -
      When you look at Dozier's splits between being ahead and behind in the count last year, you walk away feeling like he'd be just fine with seeing more offspeed pitches early in the count (and thus ahead more often). That assumes he can continue to lay off those as he showed great improvement in 2013 more similar to his MiLB numbers. I think he's in a good position to adjust well.

      Ahead: .312/.460/.618 (1.078)
      Behind: .183/.197/.254 (.451)

      His approach seems pretty simple:
      A - Fastball early, hit it
      B - Offspeed early, get ahead and wait for fastball, then hit it
      C - Missed early, oh sh!t
    1. jay's Avatar
      jay -
      One more thing to add, FG has the MLB FB% at 58% for last year with Dozier seeing 60%. Not a big difference depending on your source.
    1. Parker Hageman's Avatar
      Parker Hageman -
      One more thing to add, FG has the MLB FB% at 58% for last year with Dozier seeing 60%. Not a big difference depending on your source.
      Subtle difference but Fangraphs uses BIS video scouts for their data source while ESPN tru media, I believe, uses a combination of Inside Edge and Pitch F/X.
    1. Parker Hageman's Avatar
      Parker Hageman -
      Oh, and the 53% for the ESPN trumedia does not include cutters/sinkers whereas the BIS/Fangraphs fastball count does.
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