The Pittsburgh Pirates could always use more power. Enter a veteran slugger who might have a slimmer market than many realize.
Pittsburgh Pirates hitters were a mixed bag in 2018.
Despite resurgent seasons from Gregory Polanco and Francisco Cervelli and a solid offensive contribution from Corey Dickerson, Pittsburgh’s offensive approach could be labelled as meh at best, apathetic at worst.
The gap between the Pirates and the better offensive teams in baseball is best shown through power indicators. The club ranked 21st in MLB in ISO (.154), 16th in slugging (.407) and 25th in home runs (157). Hitting a lot of home runs does not directly equal success, should a club have steady hitters up and down its lineup, as the Boston Red Sox showed us.
But Pittsburgh sure isn’t built that way.
Everything old is new again, and the Pittsburgh Pirates find themselves once again looking for a power boost.
Only this time, there is a hot stove target that can jump start their slugging woes at an agreeable rate in Brian Dozier.
Profile and Performance
Dozier, of course, is the long-time Minnesota Twins second baseman who quickly earned a reputation as a power bat. With 172 career home runs, including a three year stretch from 2015 through 2017 in which he slugged 104 dingers, Dozier is clearly a power bat. Though his strikeout totals seem high on the surface, Dozier falls right in line with the 20 percent mark (19.6 percent for his career) that serves as a demarcation point for free swingers. He also tempers that with a 9.7 percent walk rate in his career.
Dozier’s approach at the plate looks even better after closer inspection, with one rather large asterisk.
His chase rate (swings at pitches outside of the zone) is elite (26.4 percent for his career, 22.8 percent in 2018) against the MLB-wide rate of 28.2 percent.
But, perhaps Dozier is too patient. His career zone swing rate of 59.8 percent is a sizable measure short of MLB’s 65.8 percent rate. Dozier also flatly refuses to go after the first pitch, swinging at just 16.1 percent of first pitches in 2018 as opposed to the collective 28.1 percent figure. Clearly, this sets him off on the right foot; Yet, Dozier also slugs .595 on the first pitch throughout his career.
Okay, now for that asterisk. All plate discipline and strikeout rate praise aside, Dozier’s slash line leaves a lot to be desired. Even if we discount his troubled 2018 (more on that later), we still see a hitter who struggles to hit for a high average while not really getting on base consistently enough. It’s no coincidence that the three-year stretch mentioned above contain his best on base work.
The case for
- Power, power and more power. That’s what Dozier can bring to the table. At least, the threat of power. Bringing him into the fold to bat either before or after Polanco would seriously lengthen the Pittsburgh Pirates’ lineup.
- Dozier’s 2018 was hobbled by injury in 2018, even though he did not miss any time. At the end of the season, it was reported that Dozier was playing with a significant knee bruise that likely sapped his production and fielding. Why is this a positive? Well..
- ..It will drive down his market considerably, perhaps to the point where a one or two year deal at below market value is on the table. Jake over at The Point of Pittsburgh explored the value or one-year rebuilding deals, and the Pirates have recent history with such a contact with Russell Martin. That seemed to work out well.
The case against
- But can the Pittsburgh Pirates dedicate a considerable amount of their offseason resources to what amounts to a dice roll? As tilted as the odds for a comeback might be (Dozier is still just 31 years old with bat speed that still plays), the risk might be too great for a team that must chart the next 2-3 years carefully.
- Dozier has never spent time on the DL. While that’s admirable, he’s no Cal Ripken. Is it fair to wonder if age combined with years of playing through injuries might creep up to him, proving that his 2018 was only a harbinger of things to come?
What it might take
As mentioned, Dozier’s market does not appear to be all that strong. Most predict a one-year deal in the vicinity of $10 million dollars. Dozier will not have many chances left for a payday, however, and might look to see if a club would give him three years at a similar rate.
So. Should the Pittsburgh Pirates roll the dice? Yeah, probably. $10 million for a proven 20 home run per season hitter is a value. Though there is enough consternation around Dozier to require any team interested in him to perform some serious due diligence, there is also plenty enough history to show that Dozier can still serve as a solid piece for a club looking to jump start its way to contention.