Anatomy of an Adjustment: Brian Dozier

In July, I wrote a column detailing my concerns about Brian Dozier. Dozier came into July with 51 walks compared to 65 strikeouts, and that plate discipline was a big part of his move into the top tier of fantasy second-base options. By the time I wrote him up on July 28, the 27-year-old had amassed 21 strikeouts, with just one measly walk, since the calendar turned over to July.

Without regurgitating my entire piece from July, I concluded that Dozier was being far more aggressive at the plate, as the 4.50 pitches he saw per plate appearance in June had dropped to less than four pitches per PA. Additionally, pitchers were throwing Dozier fewer fastballs, and he was swinging at offspeed stuff with nearly zero strike-zone discrimination.

The question, of course, was whether Dozier could turn it around. At the time, I said:

We’re only looking at one month here, and it was preceded by a full calendar year of well-above average production. However, pitchers are attacking him in a significantly different fashion than they ever have before, and Dozier hasn’t responded well, to put it very kindly. In the end, I’m trying my best not to overreact to a one-month sample, but Dozier clearly needs to make a serious adjustment if pitchers continue to avoid throwing him fastballs.

And adjust he did. In the month of August, he drew an incredible 25 walks — a whopping 19.0% BB-rate — and struck out just 18 times. His pitches-per-PA mark was back up to 4.27. He only hit one home run in August, but his 25 runs in just 29 games helped place him back in the top tier of fantasy second basemen. Dozier’s on-base success dipped a bit again in September, but with his steady across-the-board production, he was still a top-10 2B for the month.

So, let’s find out what Dozier did to bounce back from his July swoon. What I really want to discover is whether he adjusted to the pitchers’ new tendencies, or whether the pitchers themselves went back to their prior plan of attack against Dozier. The answer is a bit of a compromise between the two.

On the following graph, it’s easy to see that pitchers didn’t really stick with the theme of throwing Dozier fewer fastballs, which is a bit odd on the surface, seeing as it worked so well in July:

Keep in mind that Dozier saw far fewer total pitches in July — fewer than four per PA — than any other month, so his raw number of fastballs seen was even lower in relation to the percentages in the above graph. (Refer to this graph from my previous Dozier column if you’d like a visualization of the raw pitch counts.) As for that strikezone discrimination issue he showed in July, that too was merely a blip on his seasonal radar:

At some point, this all breaks down to a chicken-or-the-egg debate. Did Dozier’s discipline improve due to simply seeing more fastballs again, or was he seeing more fastballs again because he had improved his discipline against offspeed stuff? Again, it’s likely a combination of the two. Either way, as soon as July was over, it was back to usual for the Twins’ second-sacker.

Full-month samples are still pretty small, but when a player spends an entire month playing in a completely different fashion than he’s ever played, it’s always worth digging into. Even including his wacky July, Dozier finished the season as the No. 4 fantasy second baseman, earning nearly $25 and trailing just Jose Altuve, Ian Kinsler and Dee Gordon.

That’s pretty much the player he’s been ever since he broke out in June 2013. I see no reason to doubt his ability to hold down a top-five 2B slot for 2015, especially since he showed the ability to adjust to adaptations in pitchers’ game plans this year.

We hoped you liked reading Anatomy of an Adjustment: Brian Dozier by Scott Strandberg!

Please support FanGraphs by becoming a member. We publish thousands of articles a year, host multiple podcasts, and have an ever growing database of baseball stats.

FanGraphs does not have a paywall. With your membership, we can continue to offer the content you've come to rely on and add to our unique baseball coverage.

Support FanGraphs




Scott Strandberg started writing for Rotographs in 2013. He works in small business consultation, and he also writes A&E columns for The Norman Transcript newspaper. Scott lives in Seattle, WA.

newest oldest most voted
Fatbot
Guest
Fatbot

With all the “catcher framing WAR” hoopla, I am boggled that Dozier does not prompt a “batter framing WAR” discussion. Dozier by far leads MLB in pitches in the strike zone that are called a ball — 93 such would-be strikes over the season, according to baseball savant (C.Santana 2nd with 80).

Relating to this article, if you look at the breakdown by month of these “free balls”, his low month was (surprise) July, when he only got 11. His high month was (surprise) August when he got 25 — 4.37% of strikes thrown to Dozier in August were instead called a ball by umpires!

Why do umps give him free balls? I don’t know. But it does seem to be a repeatable skill. And I do see it coincides nicely with his “rebound” discussed here. In the at-bats where those 25 “strikes” were called balls, Dozier walked 11 times for a .440 OBA and only struck out twice. So 11 of those “incredible 25 August walks” were ump-aided. Game is kind of easier when you are getting spotted freebies.

Dozier’s plate approach is simple — take every pitch outside. So pitchers try to throw there. But for unknown reasons the ump will not call a strike on the outside corner against him. Then the pitcher gets frustrated and has to groove a fastball. Remember these are the only pitches Dozier can handle since he is pull-dependent (zero opposite field HRs).

So as long as umpires will give Dozier free balls instead of the same strike zone as every other MLB player, he will continue to succeed above expectations. And yes I hope “free balls” becomes a talking point, or even his catch phrase. 😉

Fatbot
Guest
Fatbot

For more fun note Jose Bautista only got 34 “free balls” versus Dozier’s 93. Using Dozier’s August rate of 25 free balls = 11 free walks, Bautista would have had 26 extra BBs. So if only umpires liked Bautista as much as Dozier he could have finished with an MLB-best 130 walks and a .441 OBP.

Eric
Guest
Eric

There is only one conclussion: It’s the hair. Even umpires get distracted by it!