Trending in the Right Direction
by, 08-06-2013 at 12:30 AM (364 Views)
Anyone that looked at the Minnesota Twins roster coming out of spring training new that the team would not be competing with the Detroit Tigers in 2013. So, in my mind, 2013 would be all about development and improvement. Those two things would be the keys, the things I would be looking for, in 2013.
From a development standpoint, the Twins farm system continues to add talent, and the top ranked players are continuing to improve as they move up. From an improvement standpoint, there were a couple of players at the big league level that we needed to watch. While a couple of players have seemingly reached a (hopefully) temporary plateau, a couple of others have needed time at AAA. Fortunately, one player has possibly taken a step forward in his career.
Now, if you take a look at the season total numbers for Brian Dozier, they won’t create any excitement. In 94 total games this season, Dozier is hitting just .236/.307/.394 (.701). That makes him a slightly below average major league second baseman.
However, when you consider that in 84 games in 2012, Dozier hit just .234/.271/.332 (.603), it is a huge step forward. A nearly .100 point improvement is significant.
One thing that I always look for is player improvement over time. Consider the below:
Opening Day through 5/27 5/28 through 8/4 Games 37 57 H-AB 27-137 54-206 BB:K 8:33 24:38 BA .197 .262 OBP .238 .350 SLG .270 .476 OPS .508 .826
Of course, if you want, you can pick apart many small sample sizes and come up with numbers, but I do think that the streak that Dozier has been on for the last nine weeks is enough of a sample that we can draw something from it. What do I see? He’s walking significantly more, while also improving his strikeout rate some. His batting average jumped .065 points, but more important, his on-base percentage is suddenly up into the category where he is an asset near the top of the lineup. He’s also hit for much more power.
What if Dozier would have started the season by posting that .826 OPS over the first two months of the season, instead of struggling so much again? Well, that .826 OPS would be behind only Robinson Cano and Jason Kipnis among all AL second basemen.
If Dozier can continue to control the plate as he has from the leadoff spot, I think that an OPS of .750-.775 is reasonable. Is it something he could carry over into next year? People may forget, but he only turned 26 years old in mid-May. He still has just 725 plate appearances in his big league career.
However, as much improvement as we have seen at the plate from Dozier, what he has done in the field is even more remarkable. A year ago, Dozier played 84 games with the Twins at shortstop and really struggled. To be fair, so did Pedro Florimon, so we should not make too much of it. With Florimon playing tremendous defense at shortstop, Dozier has made the transition to second base, and he has done so nearly flawlessly.
By the eye test, Dozier just looks like a natural at second base. He makes the routine plays look routine, and he has very good range to his left and his right, and enough arm to make the tougher throws from behind second base. He charges the ball well when needed and goes out on pop ups very well.
He looks very comfortable at second base, but what do the defensive metrics tell us?
- He has just three errors and a .994 fielding percentage. That fielding percentage is tops in baseball, tied with Dustin Pedroia and Ben Zobrist. Zobrist has spent less time at second. It is interesting to note that despite playing in 19 less games than Pedroia, he has just two less putouts and five less assists, which means that he’s getting to more plays per game. Is that more range, or is that just more ground balls from pitchers? That we don’t know, but it is impressive.
- If you were to look at a statistic called Range Factor, which is a good measure of range, Dozier is posting a 5.63. Neil Walker is number two in MLB with a 5.20 Range Factor. The second-base Range Factor in the American League is A’s second baseman Eric Sogard.
- His UZR/150 (Ultimate Zone Rating, calculated over 150 games) of 2.8, Dozier ranks fourth in the AL among second basemen. Of course, like any of these stats, they have to be taken as small sample size an could still vary over time.
By any measure, Brian Dozier has been terrific defensively.
If Dozier continues to post an OPS in the .750-.775 range (maybe even over .800?), and his defense remains tremendous, could you see a scenario where the Twins would move Eddie Rosario back out to left field or right field and play in an outfield with Aaron Hicks and Oswaldo Arcia for a couple of years until Byron Buxton is ready?
Who knows what will happen over the final two months of the season? Will Dozier continue posting an .800+ OPS, or will he revert to the sub-.600 OPS that we saw from him early this season and throughout 2012? But, right now, the trend is moving in the right direction.