The "Black Holes"--Part I
by, 05-29-2013 at 11:26 AM (314 Views)
As the season approaches the one-third mark, the Twins have slipped well below .500 and are now in a logjam of teams (a half game ahead of Toronto and Seattle, tied with KC, a half game behind the Angels) that has to look up to see respectability and only solidly ahead of one team (the woebegone Astros). Starting pitching is the main culprit, but the team hasn't produced offensively either. The Twins are 10th in runs per game, 14th (next to last) in OPS and homers and last in slugging. The offensive disappointment can be traced to several factors including: 1) Bad weather 2) Weird seasons from their former MVPs, Mauer (a ton of strikeouts) and Morneau (no power) and 3) regression to the mean from last year's free agent acquisitions, Doumit and Willingham.
The primary reason, IMHO, why the Twins offense has struggled has been too many easy outs. The Twins entered 2013 with five new starters, each a question mark, and I stated as the season started that the success or failure of these non-proven non-rookies would determine the success or failure of 2013. So far the results are mixed, at best. New shortstop Pedro Florimon has picked up his fielding after a slow start and is hitting acceptably, especially given very low expectations. Trevor Plouffe isn't a gold glover, but he has shown incremental improvement at third in his first full year as a 3B and while he hasn't "gone off", he's been an average offensive third baseman. The other three new starters will be the subject of this and two more blogs. They are the "black holes" in the lineup--guys that rank among the worst offensive players at their positions. The accused are second baseman Brian Dozier, right fielder Chris Parmelee, and center fielder Aaron Hicks. First Dozier.
Brian Dozier came to the Twins on May 7 last year and lasted as the regular shortstop until mid-August. Dozier became a prospect by having a fine 2011 in the minors, hitting over .300 at both Ft. Myers and New Britain while adding some extra base sock. Dozier started out well for the Twins before fading badly and also playing a poor shortstop. It was decided that he try to make the transition to second base and he was given the inside track to win a starting job there in spring training. Dozier performed commendably in the field and hit acceptably and won the job in March. So far, Dozier's defense has been excellent, but the offensive graph has not been good. Dozier started slow, as almost all the regulars did, came on to get his BA to around .250 and then slumped horribly. His three-hit game last night put him above .200, but the OPS is still only .537, ahead of Chicago fill-in Jeff Keppinger and recently-demoted Dustin Ackley.
Dozier just turned 26 and has never been projected to be a star. His leash is a bit longer because besides the two in-house utility infielders (one of whom is 39 years old) there isn't a player who profiles as a starting major league second baseman in the system above Fort Myers. As with all the "black holes", I think there is hope for Dozier. He certainly needs to hit more, but he isn't a .537 OPS player IMHO. Patience and proper usage might lead to Brian establishing himself as a regular. I would peg his OPS at the end of the year being between .675 and .700 (something like .320/.370/.690)--those numbers would put him in the middle of the pack offensively. Combined with plus defense and no palatable alternatives, Dozier could stick as the Twins regular second baseman going in 2014.