Brian Dozier entered the 2018 season as one of the most stable power-speed options in the game. Among the 17 players with at least 50 HR and 50 SB from 2014-17, his 194 HR+SB placed him fourth behind only Jose Altuve (226), Mike Trout (216), and Charlie Blackmon (204). He only hit .254 during that four-year run, but 2016-17 were his two best seasons during the run and he actually hit .269 in those two seasons.
In 2016-17, Dozier had also shown a severe first half/second half split. In the two first halves, he had a .244/.331/.433 line compared to a .298/.369/.619 in the second halves. I mention that because it definitely bought him some leeway when he meandered through the first few months of 2018. He had just a .692 OPS a week into July, but rallied a bit just before the break to end the first half at .738 with 16 HR and 5 SB in 414 PA.
He couldn’t stay hot coming out of the break, but then he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers on the July 31st deadline. He opened with homers in each of his first two games as a Dodger and put up a .308/.438/.769 line in his first week of play (32 PA). I can’t imagine I was alone in thinking that was the beginning of his perennial second half surge.
Narrator: It was not.
He wouldn’t hit another homer for two weeks and ended his Dodger run with a .154/.268/.256 line after that first week. All told, he managed just a .182/.300/.350 in LA and .215/.305/.391 for the entire season. His 21 HR were a five-year low and his 12 SB were tied for the same. I can’t find a lot different within Dozier’s profile to account for the fall off. In fact, I can’t really find any tangible differences that would yield any sort of drop, let alone the cratering we saw.
His plate skills were literally identical. There was absolutely no movement of consequence in his strikeout, walk, swinging strike, chase, and contact rates. I’d have expected to see something different in these skills when his OPS fell 160 points. Let’s take a look at his batted ball profile:
OK, we actually see a real change here. And no, it’s not the infield flyball rate. The 4-point jump there just isn’t that impactful. His 32 infield flies were a three-year high despite a three-year low in flyballs, but even if you give him the 2017 infield fly rate, it’s a difference of seven pop-ups. Give him hits on all seven of those and he’s still only at .228 so it’s not a crazy change. The HR/FB rate is where we see something.
The 6-point drop from 2017 to 2018 is worth about 10 homers. Even getting 5-6 of those would’ve helped his bottom line. One other major difference I didn’t put in either chart was his BABIP. I didn’t include it because it’s not as skill-based as the other aspects I chose to highlight, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention his 60-point tanking down to .240!
The infield flyball rate explains some of the BABIP drop, but there seems to be some plain old bad luck involved, too. There just aren’t enough changes in his profile to account for that kind of fall off in BABIP leaving me with little else but bad luck as a major culprit. I’d say maybe he played through some undocumented nagging injuries, too, but then why wouldn’t any of his major skill indicators show it?
I’m eager to see where Dozier lands this winter. I think his price tag will remain around his #2EarlyMock ADP of 85 and I’m buying there. I’m seeing something like .250, 25 HR, 15 SB and there’s still .270, 35, 20 upside with the SBs depending on his landing spot (hopefully he goes somewhere open to stealing).