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 won’t 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|
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? 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 range where he is an asset near the top of the lineup. He’s 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 he’s getting to more plays per game than Pedroia. Is that more range, or just more ground balls from pitchers? That we don’t 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 A’s 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.