That was Twins’ second baseman Brian Dozier’s response when asked why he had such a successful track record with pitches up in the zone. And for a fraction of a second, I was shocked at the lack of attention to an obvious trend before Dozier unleashed an all-knowing smirk. He was putting me on. He and everybody else who came into his locker and shoved a microphone in his face were keenly aware of his talent for damaging baseballs that were elevated.
It is impossible to miss.
“I’ve heard metric in the book where all my power is left field and up-in-the-zone and up-and-in,” Dozier said. “There’s a reason for that. I’m not going to tell you but there is a reason for that. It’s more feel for the game than anything.”
The real mystery is why teams continue to even challenge Dozier with pitches at belt and above. Given his tendencies, one would expect that pitchers would strive at all costs to avoid that area of the zone. However Dozier sees more pitches up than any other hitter. While the average hitter sees pitches in the upper portion of the zone 25% of the time, Dozier leads baseball with a 40% upper zone rate.
When asked if he was surprised that pitchers were feeding him so many pitches up in the zone, Dozier said he was not. He still sees his share of sliders down-and-away and fastballs away so going upstairs -- particularly up-and-in -- keeps him from camping on other pitches.
In addition to being a power threat to any sphere tossed up in the zone, Dozier also has become one of the league's most extreme pull hitters. Since the start of 2014, he has collected over 89 extra base hits when pulling the ball. The next closest in that category is Colorado’s Nolan Arenado with 79. In that time, Dozier has hit more home runs to the pull-side (39) than anyone but Jose Bautista (45), Albert Pujols (42) and Edwin Encarnacion (41).
“Why don’t I hit more balls to right field. Why do you want to go out to right when the shortest distance is to left?” Dozier remarked.
Dozier’s methods has led to him being one of the most prolific offensive threats at the second base position. Since the start of the 2014 season, his 41 home runs far exceed the others at his position. He holds a 12 dinger lead over Neil Walker of the Pittsburgh Pirates, the next closest competitor in that time. He has 21 home runs more than Detroit’s Ian Kinsler and St. Louis’ Kolton Wong and he has 23 more home runs than the highly compensated Robinson Cano in Seattle. Dozier’s 104 total extra base hits also leads the field by a wide margin (Kinsler is second at 85 extra base hits). He is also not someone who has sacrificed discipline for power either. Among all second baseman, Dozier leads with 123 walks. The next closest is Cleveland’s Jason Kipnis at 77. When you view the metrics, it is hard to understand why anyone wouldn’t want Dozier on their All-Star roster.
Still, while making the All-Star team would be a fine marketing accomplishment for the Twins and certainly a lifetime achievement milestone for Dozier himself, the real prize would be if he can continue this production in the second half of the season. Last season, he cruised to the break with 18 home runs but managed just five more in the latter portion of the year.
Fans deserve to see the best player at each position in the Midsummer Classic. However, if Dozier gets a few days to rest, don’t be upset either. As long as he is still able to catch up to the high pitch and pull the living fire out of it, he will continue to be one of the top players in the game.