by Daniel Conmy
We are lucky enough to get the day off on Labor Day, but baseball players are hard at work attempting to push their teams into the playoffs. Other teams are not as fortunate to be in a playoff race. They still play baseball, though, and sometimes it is impressive. Brian Dozier is one of those people we don't pay enough attention to. Before play on Monday, Dozier accumulated 35 home runs and a 5.3 WAR. Those are incredible numbers, so let's look into how Dozier's accomplishments, which are rare for second basemen.
All Brian Dozier does is pull the baseball, but once in a blue moon, he hits one to right field. That one time, Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs wrote about Dozier's only opposite field home run last year. It was a look at a feat that hasn't been accomplished by the slugging second baseman. To give some perspective on how rare that is, here is a graph of Dozier's home runs this year:
This graphic displays home runs before play on Monday afternoon, where Dozier deposited three more home runs to left and left-center field. There are only two balls right of center field this year. His total has climbed to 38 home runs on the year, a career high, and is approaching the highest amount ever by a second basemen. Davey Johnson in 1973 leads all second basemen with 43 home runs in a single season. With a little under a month left, it is not far-fetched to think that Dozier can make it to 43.
In August, Dozier led the league with 13 home runs and has continued his torrid pace with six home runs already in September. What does Dozier do so well or why do pitchers continue to throw pitches in a zone where Dozier can lift them over the fence? One thing that Dozier has done incredibly well is not miss his pitch.
Looking at his pull percentage on FanGraphs, Dozier has not done anything differently from 2014 on. In 2014, Dozier’s philosophy changed from hitting balls all around the field to hitting over 50 percent of the balls to the pull side. What is being done more successfully is how hard he is hitting the ball. Dozier’s hard hit percentage from 2014 to 2016 has risen by seven percentage points. Since there is a change in his hard hit balls, his home run total has increased as well. It may not be perfect correlation because there are always other factors, but you can assume that the harder you hit the ball, the farther it will go.
Monday, Dozier battled against Ian Kennedy in a 10 pitch at-bat, which ended with a home run. Here are the pitches from that at-bat:
This graph, courtesy of Brooks Baseball, shows that Dozier battled off pitches that he was not able to do damage with. From the graph, you can look at how Dozier only swung at pitches in the zone and was able to lay off of pitches outside the zone, where he could do no damage. Then, Kennedy made a mistake over the middle of the plate:
What we see in the swing above is vintage Dozier -- a pitch middle or a little outside and the Minnesota Twins second basemen decides to be short and quick to the ball. Given Dozier's shorter stature, he does nothing more than barrel the ball. This year is shaping up to be a career year for the 29-year-old, who will likely enter a decline over the next couple years.
While the Twins do not have much to play for in these days of September, Dozier has a legitimate chance to break the all-time home run record for second basemen. We've seen many players decide to only pull the ball this year and focus on hitting home runs. Brian Dozier is one player that has thrived on this type of style and he is continually reaping the rewards, including his first three home run game on Labor Day.