Brian Dozier Has Become One of Baseball's Best Power Hitters
Trust the process.
We've heard this phrase used in other sports -- perhaps most notably in the NBA with the Philadelphia 76ers -- but it has value in baseball, as well. Minnesota Twins' second baseman Brian Dozier is the perfect example.
When talking about his own abilities, Dozier said, "You have to figure out what type of player you are -- what type of hitter you are. Once you find that, you stick with it."
It seems to have taken Dozier about a season and a half to figure out the type of player he is, and now that he has, the results have been impressive.
Signs of Power
He broke into the big leagues in 2012, playing 84 games and struggling to a line of .234/.271/.332 with 6 home runs, a .098 ISO and 265 wOBA. Dozier followed up on that weak performance by hitting .244/.312/.414 with 18 home runs, a .170 ISO and .319 wOBA in 2014. This was the first hint of an oncoming power surge, and it has been building ever since.
Dozier is slashing .270/.343/.543 in 532 plate appearances this season, and he smacked his 30th home run on Wednesday. His ISO has jumped to .272 while his wOBA has ballooned to .370, both of which are easily career-best marks.
His 30 taters are tied for the eighth in baseball, his .272 ISO sits 10th and his .543 slugging percentage is 20th -- ahead of guys like Nelson Cruz and current home run leader Mark Trumbo. Dozier also ranks in the top 30 in wOBA (.370), wRC+ (132) and OPS (.886), leading to 4.1 Wins Above Replacement (fWAR), per FanGraphs, which ranks 18th among all hitters.
Only nine guys have more extra-base hits this season than Dozier's 63. He entered the year as a good power hitter for a second baseman, but he's starting to entrench himself as one of the best power hitters, regardless of position. Check out this bomb he hit on August 19th, which was his longest home run of the year.
Out of Left Field
You'll notice that he hit this tater to center, which, for Dozier, has been a rarity this season. The percentage of balls he pulls to left is currently 55.3%, the highest in baseball. It's even more evident when looking at his spray chart as only 2 of his 30 bombs have been hit to the right side of center field.
Despite the Twins having 36 games left this season, Dozier has already surpassed his previous career high in home runs (28). Going back to trusting his approach, Dozier's game plan at the plate seems to be a simple one: hit fly balls, hit them hard and pull them. His fly-ball rate of 48.6% is the third-highest mark this season, and his 33.2% hard-hit rate is easily a career high.
However, based on Dozier's early-season results -- he posted just a .277 wOBA through his first 198 plate appearances -- other hitters may have chosen to abandon the approach. Dozier, instead, chose to do the opposite and double-down on his tactics. His results speak for themselves.
Since the start of June, Dozier has been as hot as it gets at the plate, and the two biggest differences in his approach are his pull rate and hard-hit rate. Despite his struggles in the first two months of the season, Dozier trusted the process and continued trying to make solid contact while pulling the ball.
Obviously, hitters aren't stepping to the plate hoping to hit the ball weakly, but hitting the ball hard is a clear goal of Dozier's. He even said as much, explaining his approach as, "I want hard contact and extra-base hits."
Further supporting the idea that Dozier didn't jump ship with his approach is that his plate discipline from his poor first two months of the year compared to this current hot stretch looks virtually the same. This suggests that he didn't change his aggressiveness or approach, and he wasn't chasing pitches out of the zone.
Speaking of the strike zone, Dozier has cut down on his strikeouts this season, something not too common among today's home run hitters. His strikeout rate of 16.5% is the lowest of his career and down significantly from the 21.0% mark he posted in 2015. There are currently 31 hitters this year with at least 25 home runs and only 6 of them have a lower strikeout rate than Dozier.
It's been a career year for Dozier, and we project him to keep rolling over the remaining course of the season. We forecast him to hit 6 more taters and post an .800 OPS, which would make him the first second baseman to hit 36 home runs in a season since Dan Uggla did so in 2011.
If Dozier has taught us anything, it's to figure out the best process and stick to it. The results will be worth the wait.