Deconstructing Dozier: Twins try to fix slump

MINNEAPOLIS -- Terry Ryan did not mince words when asked about slumping Minnesota Twins second baseman Brian Dozier."We've got to fix him," the Twins' general manager said Sunday. "We've got to fix Brian Dozier."After going hitless in his final 1...

Minnesota Twins second baseman Brian Dozier (2) fields a ground ball in the ninth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Target Field on Sunday in Minneapolis. Brad Rempel / USA Today Sports

MINNEAPOLIS - Terry Ryan did not mince words when asked about slumping Minnesota Twins second baseman Brian Dozier.
“We’ve got to fix him,” the Twins’ general manager said Sunday. “We’ve got to fix Brian Dozier.”
After going hitless in his final 15 at-bats against the Toronto Blue Jays over the weekend, Dozier saw his batting average sag to .199. He was reaching base at just a .284 clip, yet Twins manager Paul Molitor was still putting him in the leadoff spot, hoping that might be the tonic to get Dozier going.
“The talent is there,” Ryan said. “We all saw it the first half (of 2015), but there also has to be adjustability. Our patience is high; there’s no doubt. Brian Dozier’s a smart guy. It’s not working right now, so we’ve got to adjust.”
Therein could lie the problem.
Informed later about Ryan’s comments, Dozier smiled and shook his head when asked if he thought he needed fixing.
“To be honest with you, I probably feel better than I have my whole career,” Dozier said.
Coming off his first All-Star selection, and considering the production Dozier was able to mount in the past two first halves, this was quite a statement. The fact Dozier had yet to hit a home run at Target Field this season, and had left the yard at home just once since last Aug. 15 (a span of 149 at-bats) only made his words more surprising.
Through that same period, Dozier was batting just .188 with a .262 on-base percentage in 37 games at Target Field. His only homer was an almost-accidental shot down the right-field line off Cleveland ace Corey Kluber late last September.
“This has been a lengthy issue,” Ryan said. “It started last year in the second half. We need to fix it, and we’ll fix it up here, but we’ve got to fix it.”
What’s the main problem?
“It’s pull mode, (swinging) out of the zone and trying to do too much,” Ryan said. “It’s basically everything we saw in 

August and September. They bunch you on the left side. He’s hitting pop-ups in the air, and they aren’t going over the fence like they were last year. That means he’s probably not getting a pitch he can handle.”
Ryan shook his head.
“I don’t want to get too open to the media on this thing,” he added. “There’s nobody that doesn’t recognize he’s going through a tough time.”
Dozier has two minor-league options remaining, and the Twins could soon have nowhere to play streaking Eduardo Nunez once regular shortstop Eduardo Escobar comes off the disabled list. Rookie infielder Jorge Polanco also has intrigued with his potential in limited looks thus far.
However, there was no indication the Twins might try sending Dozier back to Class AAA in order to find his swing. In fact, there was some evidence to suggest Dozier, 29, is on the verge of breaking out of his prolonged funk.
He started the Toronto series last Thursday with a line single to left off a 3-2 changeup from Marco Estrada. Starting off the next night, he lined out to third against a 95-mph fastball from Aaron Sanchez.
Then came Sunday, when Dozier crushed a long fly ball into the gap in left center. What looked like an RBI double off the bat instead wound up in the glove of diving center fielder Kevin Pillar.
“Things have been going that way for a while now,” Dozier said. “Heck of a play. It’s not a good feeling.”
Dozier’s batting average on balls in play has dropped to a career-worst .218. His career figure is just .265, surprisingly low for a player with good speed but likely due to his propensity to hit the ball in the air.
Dozier’s strikeout rate is 16.5 percent, well below his career mark of 19 percent, and he is swinging at
29.3 percent of pitches out of the zone, which is only slightly higher than the major-league average of 28.0 percent.
What has spiked for Dozier is his percentage of strikes taken outside the zone. At 12.4 percent, he is sixth in the majors in what might be deemed lack of respect from plate umpires.
“You make your own breaks; you don’t worry about results,” Dozier said. “The only thing you can control is how you prepare. Just take the past four games: I had one hit this series and squared two or three balls up each and every game. That’s just how it goes.
“I know it’s a results-
oriented game; that’s all that matters. But at the same time, you can’t really focus on results, just how you prepare and put yourself in position.”
Both Dozier and Molitor insist the second baseman’s right hamstring is not hampering him after it caused him to miss all but one plate appearance of the recent series sweep the Twins suffered in Chicago. Just before that, Dozier had a six-hit series at Houston before injuring himself May 4 as he left the batter’s box on a grounder to shortstop.
“It’s not limiting him at all and hasn’t been for a little while,” Molitor said. “I don’t think that’s part of the equation.”
Dozier and Ryan had another of their frequent talks early in the Toronto series. It was only 30 percent about baseball, Dozier estimated.
“This was just a man-to-man talk,” he said. “We talk a lot and pick each other’s brain, so that’s good. Sometimes it’s just to get what each other’s thinking. Me and him are very close, even outside the game of baseball. We bounce a lot of ideas off each other. Hopefully we can use some of the things that we talked about to get this thing rolling.”
It’s not just a lack of production and winning that is plaguing Dozier. It’s also how to balance his newly increased leadership responsibilities with everything else that goes into playing at the big-league level.
“Being the leader of this team, when you’re not playing at the level you’re used to the past three or four years, and we’re struggling as much as we are, you kind of want to try to fix everything and score 10 runs in one inning yourself to kind of jump-start things,” Dozier said. “At the same time you have to stay true to yourself. Being one of the leaders on this team and you’re not producing like you have been, it’s kind of tough.”

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