WHAT'S REALLY BEHIND BRIAN DOZIER'S INCREDIBLE TURNAROUND.
A few weeks ago I stumbled across a post at Fangraphs.com that tried to explain why Brian Dozier was suddenly hitting every pitch 600 feet.
It is something that sites like Fangraphs does all the time. If there is a change in a player’s performance guys like Eno Sarris, Jeff Sullivan and August Fagerstrom do an excellent and thorough job of breaking down the ins-and-outs through stats and video. Occasionally when the are forced to write about a Twins player and miss out on the clicks from a fan base of a more popular team, they miss or overlook something that the local followers are aware of. It comes with the territory of trying to cover all 30 teams.
This Dozier write-up was more geared for the roto reader -- those into fantasy baseball -- but the post dove headlong into a mechanical breakdown of Dozier swing. That grabbed my attention.
The differences aren’t too tough to spot. The tentative, bunny-hop step Dozier was using early on in the season now seems to have a purpose. His weight is more evenly distributed, his timing is smoother, and he’s incorporating his core strength more effectively. For a closer look, I freeze-framed each video at the exact moment just before Dozier starts his swing.
The big change is where he’s starting his hands. He’s brought them in tight to his body, with the bat held up straight, as opposed to keeping his hands back. This allows Dozier to get the barrel through the zone quicker, which goes a long way toward explaining the spike in hard contact, and his increased power on inside pitches.
Based on this assessment, Sport Illustrated’s Jay Jaffe picked it up and used it as a part of his analysis in explaining why Dozier has been Baseball Jesus over the last few months. Since many readers here also read a lot of Fangraphs and writers like Jaffe, I figured I would take the time to make it clear what is and is not happening.
I will preface this by saying the author of the post is not wrong, per se. Fangraphs.com’s Scott Strandberg recognized that Brian Dozier is indeed doing something different at the plate. It’s just that the conclusion on his analysis is off. I’ve added the bold to his statements that need to be discussed.
Strandberg observed that Dozier has indeed altered his pre-swing movements, adding a much more exaggerated bat tip prior to getting his hands back. You can see the differences in motion:
That’s creating a rhythm to help with timing his movements with the pitcher. He's loose and oozing with confidence. In the screengrab from the Fangraphs article, the author notes that these are the two positions right before Dozier starts his swing and that because of it, he has brought his hands closer to his body and his bat upright.
That’s not wholly accurate.
If we back out of the shot to see where Dozier actually readies himself for the pitch, his hands and barrel are in a very similar position. The newer model is slightly more upright than the previous version but in no way is it at the point that makes a significant difference to the overall swing. Certainly not to the extent that the screengrab would lead someone to believe.
When he gathers himself into the pre-launch position, with the front foot making contact with the ground, his barrel and hands are back to the exact same spot.
That’s a small quibble, yes. Dozier is doing something different prior to starting his swing that could be helping his timing which, in turn, may help him get to the pitch at the right moment. However, at all the critical portions of the swing, his hands and barrel are in the same spot.
It is the second statement -- “This allows Dozier to get the barrel through the zone quicker, which goes a long way toward explaining the spike in hard contact, and his increased power on inside pitches” -- that I have a bigger issue with. In regards to hitting the inside pitch, instead of focusing on the hand position, notice that Dozier is further off of the plate, allowing him to barrel up more inside pitches. More important, getting the barrel through the zone quicker has never been Dozier’s problem. As Tom Brunansky told me this spring, Dozier’s biggest problem was that his barrel was not in the zone long enough. He was too quick with his barrel in the zone, the exact opposite of what the author believes is happening.
The major difference between the two style of swings is a bit more complicated and harder to see in video than what was present. Dozier has been getting behind the ball more -- meaning his barrel has stayed in the zone longer than it did at the beginning of the year.
As Dozier told the Star Tribune’s LaVelle Neal recently, his approach at the plate is now “trying to knock down the center field wall” which is a cue to stay behind the ball and not necessarily an attempt to drive the ball to the middle of the field. In his recent home run swing, you can see that in his barrel turn behind him:
This is the mechanical adjustment where the rubber meets the road for Brian Dozier. The pre-swing hand placement is eye wash. This is the catalyst for his power.
This post has been promoted to an article