COMMENTARY | Brian Dozier has played the equivalent of a full season in the major leagues for the Minnesota Twins, and his offensive number have been disappointing, if not worse. However, his numbers have shown improvement over the last six weeks. How he's doing it is even more encouraging.
On May 23 of this season, Dozier played the 119th game of his career. His career strikeout-to-walk ratio was 91/24. His career batting line was .224/.263/.316. His numbers for 2013 were .197/.238/.270.
After briefly taking over the leadoff spot in the batting order, he was justifiably put back down to the bottom of the order. He was starting to lose playing time to Jamey Carroll and Eduardo Escobar. The only thing that kept him from losing more playing time or even being demoted to the minor leagues was his good defensive play at second base.
His poor offensive numbers were surprising considering he batted .298/.370/.409 for his career in the minor leagues. The K/BB ratio was especially surprising since he had a 184/154 ratio in 365 minor league games. Somehow, it was just not translating to the major leagues.
Dozier wasn't showing any signs of improvement, either. From May 6 to May 23 Dozier went 6-for-47 and struck out 17 times to just one walk.
Minnesota Twins' Brian Dozier Became a Different Hitter at the End of May
Then, suddenly, something clicked for Dozier. May 24-28, Dozier went three straight games without a strikeout for the first time this season. On May 28, he got three hits and a walk in a 14-inning win over the Milwaukee Brewers, and he hasn't stopped hitting since.
From May 28 through July 7, Dozier batted .283/.394/.517. What is even more encouraging is that Dozier has a 20/20 K/BB ratio in those 37 games. This would indicate that Dozier has dramatically changed his approach at the plate and is being rewarded for it.
Even if you include the first two months of 2013, you can still see a pretty big difference in Dozier's approach between 2012 and 2013. While he's been making contact with pitches at almost exactly the same rates when he swings, he's just not swinging as often this year and even less at bad pitches.
In 2012, Dozier swung at 48 percent of all pitches he saw. In 2013, that's dropped to 40 percent. More importantly, he is swinging at just 23 percent of pitches out of the strike zone in 2013 after swinging at 33 percent of bad pitches in 2012. This has allowed him to double his walk rate in 2013.
Switch to Second Base Has Been Good for Minnesota Twins' Brian Dozier
When you couple his improved offense with his good defense, Dozier suddenly has become one of the more valuable Twins. Dozier has made only two errors this season and all three main defensive metrics (Fangraphs' UZR, Total Zone's Total Fielding Runs, and Baseball Info Solutions' Defensive Runs Saved) agree that Dozier has been an above-average second baseman in his first year after switching from shortstop.
All three metrics attempt to measure how many runs a player prevents measured against the league average. When you average out the numbers of the three, they show that Dozier has saved almost five runs more than an average second baseman.
If Dozier's offensive numbers continue to improve, he will soon be an above-average hitter and an above-average defender while making the league minimum. That would be extremely valuable to the Twins and could lead to some tough decisions in a year or two.
This is because one of the Twins' top prospects, Eddie Rosario, was converted to be a second baseman last year. He is now in Class AA New Britain and continues to hit well. Also, reports on his defense continue to be positive.
When Rosario is deemed ready to be promoted to the major leagues, the Twins will have to decide what to do with Dozier. They might want to consider putting Dozier back at shortstop to replace the weak-hitting Pedro Florimon. His problems there were mostly related to a lot of errors. More experience in the major leagues might allow him to relax and make the routine plays more consistently. Plus, despite the errors, Baseball Info Solutions' Defense Runs Saved metric showed that Dozier was an average shortstop.
However, the Twins are mostly concerned with errors and Dozier's lack of arm strength for a shortstop, plus Fangraphs' and Total Zone's metrics show Dozier below average as a shortstop. So, it seems unlikely the Twins would try to put Dozier back at shortstop after making the switch, at least on a daily basis.
Having two valuable players at one position is not a bad thing, especially at second base. Too many times the Twins haven't had any valuable players in the middle infield, especially young players under team control over the next few years.
Even if he ends up being traded for much-needed starting pitching, Dozier making himself into a valuable commodity is a very good thing for the Twins.
Darin McGilvra has been a professional sportswriter since 1997 and has been a Twins follower since Kirby Puckett's breakout season of 1986. He has been published in The Californian, a newspaper covering Riverside County, and numerous other websites.
Follow Darin on Twitter at @SoCalTwinsfan.
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