Brian Dozier’s Path Out of the Slump

As May came to an end, I made my way cautiously over to Brian Dozier, who was slashing .202/.294/.329 at the time. Approaching a player in the midst of a slump can go one of two ways — you can either get Brandon Moss and complete honesty about what that battle is like, or you get frustrated non-answers tinged with anger.

Dozier was more of the former — even though his numbers at the time were some of the worst of his career, particularly the ones that concerned balls in play. He didn’t mind, though, since he had a simple solution on which he was working that day. The results were immediate.

Dozier’s swing is a little different than most. It’s a bit flatter, and though he had a quip about that — “It only looks that way because I’m a lot shorter than most” — it stands out for other reasons. That flatness makes him more of a high-ball hitter than most, which leads to more fly balls than all but nine qualified hitters in the last three years.


But this year, he was having a tough time in the early going. I asked if it was because he was seeing more sinkers hard in on his hands, but he thought that wasn’t such a big deal. “Every year, they come at me a little different, and you have to make that adjustment,” he said, pointing out that he saw those things more often against a division opponent.

“Good pitchers don’t get away from their strengths in tending to your weaknesses,” he pointed out. Just because he’s a high ball hitter doesn’t mean every matchup with a high-ball pitcher will go his way. “John Axford, he’s got his velo back and lives up in the zone, you’d think that would be a good matchup for me,” Dozier said. “But at the same time, he’s got that big angle, makes it tough for me. A guy like Trevor Bauer who lives up in the zone is not going to get away from his strengths, he’ll just use it to get to change my eye level and go to the curveball.”

For whatever the reason, his batted balls were a mess in late May. His pull rate (50%), hard-hit rate (25.7%), and ground-ball to fly-ball ratio (0.68) were at extremes. Too many fly balls, too softly hit. And a three-year low in pull percentage for a guy that leads the world in pulling the ball.

So you have a hitter that wasn’t pulling the ball enough. On what does he concentrate in order to get better? “I’m trying to stay behind the ball a lot more,” Dozier said, “not trying to get everything out in front.” That sounds like he’s working on going the other way. But it’s not, as he pointed out.

“Staying behind the ball doesn’t mean trying to hit the ball the other way or up the middle,” he explained. “I can hit 100 balls to left field and as long as I stay behind the ball and really backspin it with the top hand in a good position, I’ll get what I want.” So Dozier was more focused on the quality and power of his batted balls then their direction, which makes sense, since he’s lost 15 feet of batted-ball distance on his fly balls and home runs since last year.

The fix he got from Derek Jeter. “I move the ball back as far I can and do tee work with it,” he said. That mirrors what Carlos Correa said about improving on pitches on the inside part of the plate, and it makes a lot of sense. If he’s too far out in front, he’s more likely to mis-hit the ball — think of your weight transfer, and how front-footed you’d be if you hit the ball extremely out in front, for example. Moving the ball back makes it more likely that he can hit the ball right at the moment of weight transfer and get the most out of his pulled balls.

So, yeah, since that day Dozier put up a .338/.420/.584 slash line. And though he’s hit fewer fly balls, the’ve been better fly balls. Check out his peripherals before and after the adjustment.

Brian Dozier’s Batted-Ball Peripherals
GB/FB Pull% Hard% Pull “Fly” Distance Pull “Fly” Exit Velo
2013-2015 0.84 52.3% 28.1% 305.0 91.9
Pre-Adjustment 2016 0.68 50.0% 25.7% 300.1 91.0
Post-Adjustment 2016 0.89 63.6% 28.8% 322.5 96.8
SOURCE: Statcast, FanGraphs
Pull “Fly” = batted ball to pull side with a higher than 25 degree angle

Sometimes, it’s not that you’re hitting the ball in the wrong direction left to right. Sometimes, it’s not that you have to be someone different. Sometimes, you just have to be a little bit better version of yourself. That’s how Brian Dozier found a way to make more of the pulled fly balls he was already hitting.

With a phone full of pictures of pitchers' fingers, strange beers, and his two toddler sons, Eno Sarris can be found at the ballpark or a brewery most days. Read him here, writing about the A's or Giants at The Athletic, or about beer at October. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris if you can handle the sandwiches and inanity.

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7 years ago

More Homers

Brian Dozier needs to hit more homers.

If he does that

Will very much to help get out of slump

Homers are…..


for getting out of slump.


7 years ago
Reply to  matt

you mean Homers like Hawk Harrelson? I’m totally down with him hitting a few of those