Brian Dozier isn’t concerned with the first three digits of his slash line. Nor does he worry about his spray chart, which reveals his pull-heavy approach. What the Twins second baseman cares about is creating runs.
Extra-base hits are Dozier’s forte. He had 71 of them last year, and this season he has 48 with two months left on the schedule. Yesterday he went deep for the 22nd time, putting him on pace to match last year’s career-high total of 28.
Dozier established his hitting identity in 2013. Since that first full season in Minnesota, he’s slashed .245/.325/.440, with 128 doubles and 91 home runs. Now, at age 29, he’s turning it up a notch. Gong into the weekend, Dozier is slashing .263/.341/.506 with the aforementioned 22 dingers.
Dozier discussed his approach during a recent visit to Fenway Park.
Dozier on value: “The game has changed. Everything is being brought into light as far as advanced stats, and all that. They’re evaluating players like… for instance, a .300 hitter who slaps 5, 10 home runs is less valuable than a .250 hitter who hits 25-30 home runs. A guy who creates runs. People are realizing that’s it’s not just the statistics we see on the scoreboard that you use to evaluate a hitter.
“If you’re more of a power hitter, you’re more valuable. At the same time, the game is played up the middle. Catching, pitching, short, second, center field — and if you get offensive production out of those positions… I wouldn’t call them defense-first, but any time you can get offense up the middle it’s a plus. Power is an even bigger plus. Not just home runs, but extra-base hits. Guys who can put up 50, 60, 70 extra-base hits are really valuable. I’m about one thing, and that’s creating runs.”
On shifting his focus to extra-base hits and not worrying about batting average: “I’ve absolutely done that. Shoot, that was my turning point. In 2013, I started to realize I can hit 20, 25, 30 home runs. Now my goal is to get my on-base percentage up, so I can help create even more runs.
“I can look at my average and see I’m hitting .250-something, but if I can get on base at a .350 clip, versus a guy who’s hitting .300 and getting on base .330… 300 doesn’t matter. If you can find ways to get on base and create runs, you’re being productive. In my opinion, that’s how you evaluate a player.”
On walk rate and his .271 BABIP: “There’s not [a direct correlation] between power and walk rate. There can be, at times, but people don’t always realize that the depth in your lineup is a factor. Who is hitting behind you in the lineup? Do you have protection in front of you and behind you? That plays into the pitches you get, and your walk rate.
“I don’t know what my [BABIP] is, but people tweet it to me all the time. I do know it’s kind of low. I hit a lot of fly balls and maybe that’s part of it. At the same time, I want to hit the ball in the air.”
On self-identity and growing as a player: “You have to figure out what type of player you are — what type of hitter you are. Once you find that, you stick with it. You can try to make adjustments throughout your career, but you should never lose sight of your strengths. Once you find you can get 70 extra-base hits, like I did last year, why not utilize that? Even though I led the league in pull rate, why try to change it? You can try to get better at little things, but not at the expense of going against what you do best. That’s my mentality.
“That said, you do have to take what you’re given. All of these shifts are coming into play, and they’re taking away a lot of hits. That’s one of the reasons you see batting averages going down. Sometimes a little nubber where the second baseman would have been will get a run in. But again, that’s not my game in a general sense. I want hard contact and extra-base hits.
“I’m still 29 [years old], so I don’t think I’ve hit my prime yet. They used to say that your prime is 28-33, but now, with nutrition and all that, I think prime is pushed back, so to speak. It’s getting longer. Lord willing, I’m going to keep playing for quite awhile.”
David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.