Dozier's power surge reaching historic levels

Dozier's power surge reaching historic levels

MINNEAPOLIS -- As the calendar turned to June 1, Twins second baseman Brian Dozier was hitting .202 with five homers and 17 RBIs in 46 games.

It was a continuation of his second-half struggles from last year, as Dozier was batting .207/.285/.348 with 14 homers over his previous 115 games dating back to the 2015 All-Star break. It was fair to wonder if the league had adjusted to him and his pull-happy ways, as his power was always thought of as a surprise -- considering the most homers he ever hit in the Minors was nine in 2011.

But Dozier maintained it was the best he had ever felt -- he had changed his offseason diet and worked with hitting coach Tom Brunansky on his mechanics to move farther off the plate -- and while it sounded almost delusional at the time, his message turned out to be prescient.

No one could've imagined, however, just how much Dozier would turn it around, as he's been the game's best power hitter since then, and has been a bright spot in an otherwise forgettable Twins season with 39 homers in 135 games. Since June 1, Dozier is hitting .314/.374/.694, leading the Majors with 34 homers and 75 RBIs, while pacing the AL with 73 runs in 88 games.

It's been even more glaring recently, with 22 homers over his last 37 games, which is nine more than any other player and only two fewer than the Marlins have as a team over that span.

"As a player and a coach, including my short time as manager, I've never seen a power surge like this at this level," said Twins manager Paul Molitor. "It's just become such a regular occurrence. It just hasn't stopped."

As Molitor noted, it's actually become rarer for Dozier to homer than not recently, as he's gone deep in 19 of his last 37 games, with 22 homers over that stretch -- including tying a club record with homers in five straight games until that streak ended on Wednesday.

"I know that when you get into a groove hitting, and it just so happens to be home runs and extra-base hits for me right now, the feeling you have is pretty remarkable," Dozier said. "Whenever you can get into a groove hitting, no matter it is, it's pretty cool."

Dozier, who trails Baltimore's Mark Trumbo by two homers for the MLB lead, has a shot to become the first Twins player since Harmon Killebrew to lead the Majors in homers, a feat Killebrew accomplished four times, with the last coming in 1969. Dozier and Killebrew are the only Twins to hit more than 35 homers in a season and to hit at least 13 homers in a month, which Dozier accomplished in August.

"He's one of the best Twins players of all time," Dozier said. "And I'm undeserving to be mentioned with him."

Dozier has the chance to make more history, as 37 of his homers have come while playing second base, with two coming as a designated hitter. The AL record for homers by a second baseman is 39 by Alfonso Soriano in 2002, while the Major League record is 42 by Davey Johnson (1973) and Rogers Hornsby (1922). Dozier has already tied Soriano's AL record for homers by a primary second baseman and is four off Johnson's record of 43.

Dozier, though, said he's trying not to think about any of those milestones with 22 games left this season.

"I hope he just lets the rest of the year unfold on its own," Molitor said. "It's hard to force those things."

But explaining exactly why Dozier has put up these remarkable numbers can be challenging, as there are a number of factors -- including his maturity as a hitter, mechanical changes at the plate and the changes to his diet with the help of famed nutritionist Mackie Shilstone.

Dozier said he's come to realize that homers aren't hit, they're thrown, as it's about looking for pitches to hit in the zones he's most comfortable with. He's also made it more of a point to use the whole field, as 22 of his 28 homers were categorized as to left field last year, while this year it's been 22 of 39. His explanation is he tries to stay behind the ball and drive it to center.

As for the notion that Dozier changed his mechanics to bring his hands closer to his body, he dismissed that, and said the only major change was to back off the plate at the urging of Brunansky in May after the two watched video of his approach compared to last year.

"I'm not sure who made that up," Dozier said. "I didn't do anything really with my hands. I know looking at the film compared to now, I kind of wiggle the bat more and that's a timing mechanism to set everything. And one of the bad habits early in the season was me trying to jerk everything and I was inching closer and closer to the plate before I realized I was on top of the plate."

Molitor chalks up Dozier's power surge to his ability to handle fastballs, as 27 of his homers have come on heaters, including 17 of his last 20. His impressive numbers continue to astound Molitor, a Hall of Famer whose career high in homers was 22, which is the same amount of homers Dozier has since July 31.

"It's kind of like a video game," Molitor said. "He's just impressive to watch."

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for since 2011. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.