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More Dingers for Dozier?

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ID:	6291Letís just start by saying that in his second tour of duty of the major league ranks, Brian Dozier fared better.

After a dismal 2012 season, he managed to improve his walk rate and power numbers to finish the year one of the teamís top contributions. Faint praise, however, considering the lineupís surprising lack of offense overall.

That said Dozierís in-season development was impressive. After a diagnostic from hitting coach Tom Brunansky, the infielder was able to make a timing adjustment that paid dividends in the seasonís second-half. The adjustment allowed for Dozier to combine the changes he made with his hips in spring training with the proper time to drive the ball on the inner-half of the plate. The results were 18 home runs -- the highest output by a Twinsí second baseman in team history.

Will this equate to a potential big home run numbers in 2014 too? Eh, not so fast.

One thing that needs to be taken into consideration was where his home run pitches were located. According to ESPNtrumediaís database, 11 of his 18 home runs were located in the upper-third of the hitting zone:
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Brian Dozier's 2013 home runs, by location

This represents a very high percentage of home runs and something that hitters do not typically match, year-in and year-out. In 2013, only Arizonaís Paul Goldschmidt (17) hit more home runs on pitches in the upper-third of the strike zone than Dozier.

For the past several years this leaderboard has had plenty of turnover. In 2012 another Diamondback, Aaron Hill, led baseball with 13 home runs on pitches in the upper-third. The year before that it was Josh Willingham (16) in Oakland and, before that, Albert Pujols (20).

Why this appears to be an unrepeatable skill may be influenced by the oppositionís change in approach. If you know that Albert Pujols is going to launch one on a pitch up in the zone, you would avoid that space like the plague. On the other hand, it may simply be luck. Despite major league pitchersí best efforts, they still miss their spots from time to time and the ability to capitalize deposit those mistakes into the seats may take a stroke of good fortune for the hitter.

Beyond that, Dozier faced a very high percentage of fastballs. This may be because he was a non-threatening factor in 2012 but has since made it clear he can handle the heat. Last year, he saw fastballs 57% of the time whereas the league average was 53%. On fastballs Dozier hit a healthy .273/.353/.517 but hit just .196/.239/.249 on non-fastballs. If you were concocting a game plan to combat the Twinsí lineup, the directive would likely be to throw Dozier fewer fastballs in 2014 Ė at the very least, fewer fastballs up in the zone.

This is not to say to write-off Dozierís 2014 season already. After all, the plate discipline was a significant step forward as he reduced his chase rate considerable (from 32% in í12 to 26%) and stopped swinging at everything (swing rate dropped from 49% in Ď12 to 40%). Those indicators bode well for his comprehension of the zone and his development as a hitter.


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