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  • Trending in the Right Direction

    Anyone looking at the Minnesota Twins roster coming out of spring training knew 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 players at the big league level we needed to watch. While a couple of players have seemingly reached a (we hope) temporary plateau, a couple of others have needed time at AAA. Fortunately, one player has taken a step forward in his career.


    Now, if you take a look at the season total numbers for Brian Dozier, they wont create any excitement. In 94 total games this season, Dozier is hitting just .236/.307/.394 (.701). That makes him , offensively, 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 comparisons 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 other 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? Hes 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 range where he is an asset near the top of the lineup. Hes also hit for much more power.

    What if Dozier had started the season by posting that .826 OPS over the first two months of the season, instead of struggling so much? Well, that .826 OPS would be behind only Robinson Cano and Jason Kipnis among AL second basemen.

    If Dozier can continue to control the plate as he has from the leadoff spot, I think an OPS of .750-.775 is reasonable. Is it something he can 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. This year, 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 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 fewer games than Pedroia, he has just two fewer putouts and five fewer assists, which means hes getting to more plays per game than Pedroia. Is that more range, or just more ground balls from pitchers? That we dont know, but it is impressive.
    • When we 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 runner-up in second-base Range Factor in the American League is the As Eric Sogard.
    • His UZR/150 (Ultimate Zone Rating, calculated over 150 games) is 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 and 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 move Eddie Rosario back out to left or right field and play in an outfield with Aaron Hicks and Oswaldo Arcia for a couple 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 we saw from him in 2012 and early this season? Right now though, the trend is moving in the right direction.
    This article was originally published in blog: Trending in the Right Direction started by Seth Stohs
    Comments 51 Comments
    1. old nurse's Avatar
      old nurse -
      Dozier is improving. Deduno has shown improvement over last year. One could make an argument for Florimon is improving. I wish the list from people who started some games last year for the Twins and have shown improvement this year was larger.
    1. glunn's Avatar
      glunn -
      I hope that you are on to something here. I would feel even greater optimism if Parker would post some video and an explanation of what Dozier might be doing differently at the plate in terms of mechanics.

      Hopefully Dozier can be a bright spot when we look back on this season.
    1. Joe A. Preusser's Avatar
      Joe A. Preusser -
      There are plenty of bright spots for the year:

      Dozier - showing he can stick and be a + MLBer
      Floriman - showing he can stick at the MLB level
      Arcia - flashing great plate talent
      Hicks - showing flashes of the above average MLBer he will be
      The Pen - one of the best in baseball despite a lot of innings
      Deduno - showing he can stick as a 4-5 starter
      Thomas - showing more talent and results than anyone (including me) gave him credit for - should stick somewhere as a 4th outfielder now at least
      Other than that, I bet we are excited by some of the Sept call-ups.

      Jury is still out on Parm and Plouffe. Those were specifically two things I wanted clarified this year that seem unlikely to be. Rotation has been much worse than I expected.
    1. Blackjack's Avatar
      Blackjack -
      Good article.

      One question I have is why did he have to get to the major leagues before they figured he couldn't play shortstop?? The same could be said for Plouffe. What does that say about the Twins development of infielders?? If they had been moved earlier in the minors they would have more experience and wouldn't be learning at the major league level.
    1. ericchri's Avatar
      ericchri -
      Reverse Samson effect? He chopped off his flowing locks and now he's a stud?

      I've previously wondered if the Twins might move him back to short to make room for Rosario at 2nd, but I'm honestly really torn over that one. He looks so natural at 2nd base, it'd suck if he struggled a bit defensively at short if moved back. His potential bat would sure look nice at short, though. A couple games ago Roy Smalley noted that he thought Dozier was better off at 2nd base, too. While Roy might not be the world's greatest scout, I'm pretty confident he knows more about baseball and playing shortstop than I ever will.

      One thing I really like about Dozier and even Florimon is that they actually have the ability to hit the ball over the fence. It's so frustrating to watch a Nick Punto/Ben Revere/Jamey Carroll and know there's little chance of anything but a single if they get a hit. They don't need to be in the league leaders or anything, but just offer the threat to make the pitcher a hair more cautious.
    1. jay's Avatar
      jay -
      It is interesting to note that despite playing in 19 fewer games than Pedroia, he has just two fewer putouts and five fewer assists, which means he’s getting to more plays per game than Pedroia. Is that more range, or just more ground balls from pitchers?
      The Twins staff is at 44.7% GB while the Red Sox are at 43.9%.

      Based on that minor difference alone, we could estimate Dozier would have 2% more plays on a per inning rate (realistically there's more at play here, but I digress). Pedroia is seeing .501 plays per inning (Assists+Putouts/IP), so Dozier should be just barely above that at .511. Dozier's plays per inning? .633

      Safe to say the metrics on range (RZR and rPM, the range component of DRS) like Dozier this year.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      Nice writeup Seth. I admit to overlooking the improvement in the hitting.....and being stuck on the overall numbers. If this is a real trend, he is a legit 2B. Rosario? Good question.
    1. spycake's Avatar
      spycake -
      Quote Originally Posted by jay View Post
      The Twins staff is at 44.7% GB while the Red Sox are at 43.9%.

      Based on that minor difference alone, we could estimate Dozier would have 2% more plays on a per inning rate (realistically there's more at play here, but I digress). Pedroia is seeing .501 plays per inning (Assists+Putouts/IP), so Dozier should be just barely above that at .511. Dozier's plays per inning? .633

      Safe to say the metrics on range (RZR and rPM, the range component of DRS) like Dozier this year.
      The Twins pitching staff has 300 fewer strikeouts than Boston's, and almost 100 fewer strikeouts than the next lowest MLB team (Houston). Not sure how that is factored into the advanced metrics, but regardless of ground ball rates, Twins players are seeing way more chances in the field than others.

      I wonder if that isn't inflating the defensive stats of our better fielders (Florimon, Dozier, Hicks) and deflating the stats of our worse fielders (Doumit, Willingham). Also, simply the presence of worse fielders at LF, RF, and 3B might boost the better fielders at 2B, SS, and CF -- every time Arcia or Doumit misplay a ball, it lengthens an inning and increases the likelihood of additional chances for Dozier and Florimon.

      Again, not sure how all this is filtered through the various metrics, and not to take away from Dozier's and Florimon's performance, but it will be interesting if they can maintain this level in the future, as hopefully better fielders and pitchers are put in place around them.
    1. DJL44's Avatar
      DJL44 -
      Dozier skips AAA, lays an egg in the big leagues and eventually figures it out.

      Hicks skips AAA, lays an egg in the big leagues, ????

      It is a good idea for Rosario and Sano to spend some time in AAA too. Skipping AAA only works for the most elite prospects.
    1. admscttgngl's Avatar
      admscttgngl -
      Great article. It's nice to see the guy getting recognized for the improvements he's made. One thing I noticed about Dozier recently is how he has been coming through in big spots late in games. I checked out fangraphs and found he's 2nd only to Cano in wOBA in high leverage situations. Here's hoping he keeps it rolling in to next season.
      Major League Leaderboards 2013 Batters Standard Statistics | FanGraphs Baseball
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      My honest opinion is that we are probably making far too much out of his defense last year. There were nerves. He got into some bad streaks defensively. He is better at SS than what we saw. Players/Pitchers who played with him in the minor leagues loved him. He's steady and solid at SS, but now at 2B, he's really, really good.

      I do think a lot of it is just being more and more comfortable.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      Rosario is up in June next year at the earliest. Even after he comes up, there can be considerable platooning between he and Dozier at second and Rosario can get some time in LF and DH, while Dozier can spell Florimon and Plouffe once in awhile.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      Quote Originally Posted by DJL44 View Post
      Dozier skips AAA, lays an egg in the big leagues and eventually figures it out.

      Hicks skips AAA, lays an egg in the big leagues, ????

      It is a good idea for Rosario and Sano to spend some time in AAA too. Skipping AAA only works for the most elite prospects.
      Sano is the number 4 or 5 prospect in baseball, I'm pretty sure he's elite. I'd love him up here as soon as he's ready, whether he goes to AAA or not.

      Nice first post. I like the parallels.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Quote Originally Posted by admscttgngl View Post
      Great article. It's nice to see the guy getting recognized for the improvements he's made. One thing I noticed about Dozier recently is how he has been coming through in big spots late in games. I checked out fangraphs and found he's 2nd only to Cano in wOBA in high leverage situations. Here's hoping he keeps it rolling in to next season.
      Major League Leaderboards 2013 Batters Standard Statistics | FanGraphs Baseball
      I purposely didn't mention the two or three big hits from last weekend because that's such a small part of the story. That's some of the right man, right time kind of thing... Anyone can come up with a game-winning or game-tying hit (not to minimize the importance of them)... but Dozier's improvement has happened over 9-10 weeks, not just one weekend.
    1. nicksaviking's Avatar
      nicksaviking -
      Good article and the advancement of Dozier is encouraging, but based on the title of the article, I think we have to be honest and realize that this team isn't going to improve based on Dozier's development. Thus far, three of the organizations top propsects have made it to the big leagues and two of them have performed below the expectations of even the most dour of Twins fans.
    1. Siehbiscuit's Avatar
      Siehbiscuit -
      The most disappointing thing about this season is not seeingany progress from Trevor Plouffe or Chris Parmalee. We all knew our pitching staff was going to be awful, but held out hope for of the young bats to breakthrough.
    1. spycake's Avatar
      spycake -
      Offensively, I will note that as good as Dozier's OPS is since late May, he's been around the ~.700 OPS plateau for the last month-plus. He basically ended July with almost the exact season rate stats that he had when he began July, and also where he sits today. And if some SO:BB magic clicked for him in June, it mostly deserted him in July, when he basically repeated his April across all stat categories except with more XBH. That suggests he still might settle in closer to .700 OPS overall, which is a big improvement from last year, but I think I'd need to see a near-repeat of his June to upgrade his forecast much beyond that (i.e. .750 territory).

      Interestingly, Chris Parmelee reached a similar sub-.600 OPS season low point (although not quite as low) in late May, then had an solid stretch of .350+ OBP and .500+ SLG into July with solid SO:BB rate, just like Dozier. Then that rate and his season trend reverted at about the exact same time as Dozier's, during/after the Toronto series (obviously Parm crashed much harder than Dozier, though).

      Maybe something to do with the quality of opposition we were facing, that their seasons have tracked so closely to one another? The Twins as a whole posted by far their best monthly OBP and SLG in June this year.
    1. spycake's Avatar
      spycake -
      Quote Originally Posted by Siehbiscuit View Post
      The most disappointing thing about this season is not seeingany progress from Trevor Plouffe or Chris Parmalee. We all knew our pitching staff was going to be awful, but held out hope for of the young bats to breakthrough.
      To be fair, Parmelee and Plouffe were virtual non-prospects until they both experienced AAA breakouts. Definitely nice AAA breakouts, to be sure, but that kind of history always give me pause.

      Interestingly, Dozer was almost the reverse -- he had a good minor league track record (albeit generally older, as a college draftee) before cratering at AAA (and MLB) last year.

      AAA really is the strangest level of pro baseball, I think.
    1. drjim's Avatar
      drjim -
      Quote Originally Posted by DJL44 View Post
      Dozier skips AAA, lays an egg in the big leagues and eventually figures it out.

      Hicks skips AAA, lays an egg in the big leagues, ????

      It is a good idea for Rosario and Sano to spend some time in AAA too. Skipping AAA only works for the most elite prospects.
      Dozier didn't completely skip AAA but this is a great reminder. Almost every player returns to the minors at some point.
    1. jorgenswest's Avatar
      jorgenswest -
      The first measures that become reliable in small samples are strike out rates and base on ball rates (as well as flyball groundball data)

      While the samples in the article are too small to justify a conclusion of improvement, I think there has also been an significant improvement in the walk and strike out rates.
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