Monday, August 22, 2016

Dozier's Not Jerking Around

Photo Credit: Brad Rempel, USA Today Sports
Baseball has a long season. Players show up in early spring and play well into the fall with few days off in-between. How many players can continue to be successful over the course of 162 games? This grueling nature of the game is one of the things that attracts fans of all ages.

Slumps are something players in baseball try to avoid. The best players can avoid prolonged slumps. Brian Dozier has been no stranger to slumps throughout his career. So what adjustments has Dozier made during this season's second half? Let's look back before we look forward.

In recent years, the season's second half has not been kind to Brian Dozier. In 2014, Dozier hit 18 home runs in the first half and stole 16 bases. It looked like he could be on his way to a 30-30 season. Things slowed down in the second half as he was limited to five home runs and five steals. His OBP jumped up 12 points but his power numbers declined.

Dozier's 2015 second half slump was even worse. He was selected to his first All-Star Game based on hitting 19 home runs with a .841 OPS in the first half. His batting average dropped almost 50 points in the second half and his OPS dipped to .639. His nine home runs were good but not nearly as good as his 19 first half long balls.

This season has taken on a very different trend for Mr. Dozier. He struggled out of the gate as he was hitting under .195 after the first month of the season with only three home runs. In fact, the second month of the season didn't go much better. On June 5, he was hitting .206/.299/.351 with six home runs and 10 doubles.

A walk near the end of May might have been the key to Dozier's turn around. It also signals the first time in his career where his second half numbers are going to be much better than his first half totals. Dozier told the Pioneer Press, "The whole thing is staying behind the ball. Knock on wood, I don't feel like I'll fall into the habit of jerking it again. It just comes natural now."

Dozier has been on quite the tear. Since the June 5 date mentioned above, he has hit .310/.370/.660 with 22 home runs, five triples, and 18 doubles across 68 games. His 97 long balls also leads all MLB second baseman since 2013. While last season Dozier saw his second half OPS drop to .639, this year he has an eye-popping 1.048 second-half OPS. That total ranks him sixth in all of baseball and fourth in the American League.

Take a look at Dozier's hit chart from last year to this year. In 2015, it looks like he was definitely falling into his habit of jerking the ball. Almost all of his power and almost all of his hits were left of second base.
While this season hasn't been a complete shift away from pulling the ball, Dozier has started to use more of the field. He's finding more hits right of second base and he is even finding some power to the opposite field.

At 29 years old, Dozier might be finally be settling into a more veteran approach at the plate. Dozier's defense continues to be sub-par at second base but his offensive totals are more than making up for his defensive ineptitude. He's one of the team leaders on and off the field but is this new and improved version of Dozier going to last? Or will he fall back into his old habit of jerking the ball?

Only time will tell...

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