Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Brian Dozier, 40 home-run man

Brian Dozier in the dugout Monday after No. 40.
Brian Dozier hit homer No. 40 Monday night. Numbers are odd (and even) things; I have no doubt that if humans had six fingers on each hand we would think in multiples of 12  -- and we would have invented a system of numerals that end with a zero for 12, as 10 does in this reality. The zero is one of humanity's great conceptual breakthroughs.

Anyway: 40 homers is one more than 39 and one less than 41, but that zero give it a lot more resonance with us. Forty is a milestone. The Twins moved to Minnesota in 1961 from Washington; in that time, only Harmon Killebrew had reached that milestone, and he did it seven times -- plus one in Washington before the move, One other Washington Senator hit 40 (Roy Sievers). So in the 116 seasons that the franchise has existed, 40 homers has been reached 10 times -- Killebrew eight times, Sievers once, and now Dozier.

Dozier is an unlikely candidate to reach that level of power production. Consider that Kent Hrbek never came particularly close to 40 homers. Nor did Justin Morneau, or Gary Gaetti, or Dozier's hitting coach, Tom Brunansky, power hitters all. Until this year, the non-Killebrew home run champ for Minnesota was Josh Willingham and his 35 in 2012.

Dozier was not a power guy in the minors. His season high before reaching Minnesota was nine in a season split between High A and Double A. As a minor leaguer, he hit like a stereotypical middle infielder, with a focus on hitting for average and getting on base.

He has been anything but that stereotype in the majors. In the same season he shifted from shortstop and became the regular second baseman, he started turning himself into a pull-happy power threat with an ever-increasing home run mark. Eighteen, 23, 28, and now 40 and counting.

But the stereotype persists. I have even this year heard Dan Gladden babbling about Dozier's hitting style and wondered who he's talking about; the Dozier he described is not the Dozier of reality. Gladden was imposing the typical second baseman on Dozier -- the contact hitter, the guy you put on the hit-and-run with, the guy sets the table so the big boppers can eat.

Dozier IS one of those big boppers. Forty homers is plenty of evidence for that. But it's not just broadcasters stuck on the second base mold. After all, Dozier spends a lot more time hitting leadoff than cleanup. Which is part of why 28 of his 40 homers have been solo shots.

1 comment:

  1. Where do you fall on the trading Dozier spectrum? He seems like the most valuable trading chip the team has for getting a relatively young starting pitcher or two, maybe from the Dodgers or the Mets.