As the home runs continue to fly off of Brian Dozier’s bat, he’s making what was unimaginable back in May now entirely possible in September.
Dozier blasted his 34th home run Saturday night, a leadoff shot in the first inning of the Twins’ 11-3 victory over the White Sox. With a strong September, Dozier could become only the fourth major league second baseman ever to reach 40 homers and the first since Ryne Sandberg in 1990.
The other two: Davey Johnson in 1973 and Rogers Hornsby in 1922. And Dozier is well within reach of Bret Boone’s AL record of 37 hit in 2001.
The feat would also stir emotions in Twins fans. No Twins player has hit 40 homers in a season since the great Harmon Killebrew clobbered 41 in 1970.
“That would be cool,” Dozier said as the heard about the clubs he has a chance to join.
Dozier forced this home run watch by hitting a whopping 13 of them in August — one shy of Killebrew’s club record.
Can Dozier do it? Maintaining such a pace is difficult, but he was hitting a home run every 15.1 at-bats. If he plays in each of the remaining 26 games and averages four at-bats a game — entirely possible since he bats leadoff — Dozier would hit six more home runs if he maintains his current power pace.
“The way he’s been seeing the ball, he’s just not missing mistakes right now,” third baseman Trevor Plouffe said. “Pitchers get behind him in the count, and if they groove one, he’s hitting it hard. And a lot of times he’s getting it in the air and it is going out.
“He’s just locked in.”
Dozier has done this by batting .304 with 30 homers and 71 RBI in 91 games since batting .199 with four homers on May 22. The 2015 All-Star has 17homers over his past 33 games.
“Home runs come in bunches, man,” Dozier said. “Am I going to continue to hit this many home runs? I don’t know. But I feel like I’ve gotten stronger each and every week, which hasn’t been the case in the past. I’m saying that I’m not as fatigued.”
Dozier says he’s hitting home runs when he’s not trying to, a statement that manager Paul Molitor likes to hear.
“I hope he just lets the rest of the year unfold on its own,” Molitor said. “It’s hard to force those things.”
Dozier’s stunning turnaround is driven by changes he made to his preparation and approach.
Some of it began last season, when he hired nutritionist Mackey Shilstone and cut out fried foods and some sugars from his diet. He ended the 3 p.m. extra hitting sessions before night games and even has backed off the number of grounders he takes before games. He feels stronger now than he did during the second half of last season, when he hit .210 after the All-Star break.
The other part kicked in late May, when Dozier was slumping and Molitor didn’t start him May 23 and 24 against Kansas City so he could clear his mind. Dozier led the league in pulled hits in 2015, and teams responded by shifting on him this year. Dozier kept trying to pull pitches.
“I got into a really bad habit of getting everything way out in front, and I think I was trying to do too much with the baseball,” he said.
So Dozier began focusing on hitting the ball to center during batting practice and has carried it into games. His pulled hits have dropped from 60.2 percent last year to 56 percent this year while his hits to center are up to 28.7 percent from 24.2 percent last season.
“I try to knock down the center field wall,” Dozier said. “It gets me into the habit of staying behind the ball. I finally realized to take what the game gives you.”
His surge could make the final weeks of the season interesting on a Twins team that has grossly underperformed.
“We’re not there yet,” he said.
No, but he’s getting close.