Nationals Baseball: Why isn't it Dozy-er?

Friday, January 11, 2019

Why isn't it Dozy-er?

Just wondering. "Dozsher" is no fun.  Brian "Dozy-er" - now that's a name I can get behind.

There are times when being a fan is better than being a souless automaton and the Nats recent signings is one of those times. I can look at Anibal Sanchez and Brian Dozier and see two players with pretty decent sized flaws, who are bigger risks than the Nats should be taking, who nonetheless should be projected to be pretty average in 2019.  The number are the numbers. A fan can sit there and say with a straight face "You are judging Anibal Sanchez too much on past years. You gotta look what he did last year!" and "You are judging Brian Dozier too much on last year. You gotta look what he did in past years!", not see what you are doing, and come up with a super Nats team. (also a pessimist is fun for opposite reasons)

And it goes beyond these two. Yan Gomes could bust. Trevor Rosenthal could bust.  And this is not in the "well anyone can bust" way but the "we just saw them bust over the past couple of years" way. I prefer a Gio - committing to the Nats motto of "be good enough to make the playoffs - then crapshoot" than this. It's kind of like trying to sneak into, rather than pay into, a super team. Give me more Suzukis and Barracloughs and a team that is expected to win 89-93 wins then these guys and a team that's expected to win 81-101 games. (Actually check that. Give me more Corbins)

Anyway Dozier. .235 25 HR decent defense. That was my take and that's what the projections say .  Why am I so worried about a bust? Usually, for offensive players, that worry follows an increased K rate, decreased BB rate. He might not be able to hit certain pitches in the zone. He may be chasing off-speed pitches because he can't get around on the fastball.  The eyesight and recognition might be gone just enough that he can't ID what's coming fast enough. The end result is the guy just isn't able to hit the ball anymore and there's no coming back from that. Dozier's numbers don't suggest this though. BB-rate and K-rate are stable.

What we do see is a drop in BABIP which usually indicates some bad luck. However it's coupled with a decrease in HR/FB rate which suggests a chunk of this is FBs staying in the park adding to the BABIP denominator not just hitting them where they are. That can also be fluky but it comes down a lot to what you believe. Dozier 2012-15 had BABIPs of .267 .278 .269 and .261.  His .240 is low but not too much off that. It only looks bad in comparison to the 2016-17 combo of .280 ad .300.  Dozier's HR/FB rate increased steadily 6.3% 9.9% 11.3% 13.1% 18.4%. In 2017 it took a little dip to 16.8% and last year down to 11.2%.  Look at all this and you can see a player with a bad year if you like. But you can also see a player who got kind of lucky the past two years and is really a low average, mild homer guy. Peak Danny Espinosa with worse fielding, more power.

So right away I don't like the trends. I also don't like what I see from his pull numbers (2015 - 60.2% then 56.4% 50.4% 49.9%)  His hard percentage has gone up... in fangraphs stats. But it's down on statcast and his exit velocity is down as well. It's just a MPH - which matters but isn't big. But as fangraphs notes - it's down much more on his FBs. This strikes me the way as a player who simply can't get around on the FB like he used to. The numbers from last year back that up.  He used to crush FBs to the point you'd wonder why'd he get any. Last year he was only noticeably positive on changes. This is screaming that he can't generate that down the line power and thus can't do what made him the very productive MVP vote getting player - bash homers and pair them with kind of good defense.

That's another thing - what had been a good, not great, defender last year showed real decrease. He'll be an upgrade, simply because post-injury Murphy should not have been at second. But it may be that he won't offer a good fielding alternative, he'll just be better than the worst. His speed went down and he tied his career low in SB. Not a big deal, but it takes away from something else you say he can offer. There's injuries here, yes, and the 'back spin" on injuries is now he's an injury risk and as he went into the off-season suffering from them who knows how long it will take him to recover?

What's the positive spin? Well, if you want to blame it all on injury then I guess you can say he'll get better (this is the "forward spin" from injury) then repeat 2016 and 2017. That can certainly explain the fielding issues, and can be thrown into the power argument in a way all injuries can be. He'll be 32 which is on the cusp of "probably not coming back from that" but I'd say not there yet. Some guys can't do it, some guys can keep coming back until they get into their later 30s. If he is facing a true decline, which is what I think, he does have a keen eye that hasn't left him and he could make himself into more of a patient hitter. In 2014 he was very valuable at the plate because he walked 90 times even though he hit only .242 with a moderate number (23) of  homers. That could be a plan 2019 Dozier. And of course there's Kendrick backing him up who should be fine. And he's better than Difo which was the alternative.

In the end you have to stick with the numbers and like I said .235 25 average-ish D is probably your best bet and that's fine. But ask me where I'd put my money between .215 18 poor D and .270 35 good D and I'm mortgaging the house to put it on the former.

The Nats are a good team. A very good team. They have been for years. In my mind you either do what they have been doing at different levels since 2014 - secure winning records by shoring up the bench and pen with decent players; or you go all in and try to secure, as much as one can, an even better expected record.  This type of variability to try to get those extra wins, to me, just adds uneeded possibility of another missed playoff run season. All those guys could completely fail, Gomes, Rosenthal, Dozier, Sanchez, and it wouldn't be that surprising and the Nats could go down with them. Why go at it that way?

The off-season isn't over though. Another good starter, another good pen arm, a Bryce, and then the Nats have made themselves better enough with more of an all-in strategy and this all becomes window dressing. So I'll hold off judging the off-season, as we should, until the off-season is actually over.  I don't like the current trend in signings but all it takes is one to break it.


Chas R said...

I would have rather had Marwin or Lowrie, but as we have seen with Jed they will command multi year deals and Nats don't need that with Carter Kieboom in the wings. Dozier is an inexpensive decent risk for the Nats, especially with Howie and Difo available. We don’t know which version of Dozier is going to show up, but even if he is 2018 Dozier that should be enough to give the Nats the NL East. If he turns out to be more like earlier versions of Dozier, that could push the Nats to one of the best teams in baseball. Now, if Bryce does indeed return, that creates the NATS! I like the signing and think it's a good risk.

DezoPenguin said...

I find it interesting that you critique the optimist about Sanchez and Dozier while not realizing that the pessimist is doing the exact same thing, cherry-picking the bad numbers while ignoring the good ones regardless of when they appear.

I realize that the Nats have been pursuing apparently high-variance players in the offseason (and Barraclough, I think, needs to be put into that hat as well; he really ran off a cliff in the second half of last year). What's significant, I think, is that each of these players have different kinds of variability and risk: Rosenthal, for example, has never been bad or in decline--he suffered injury, and the question is whether he's fully recovered or has lingering effects. Sanchez, on the other hand, had several years of abject decline, only to make changes in his pitching that produced significant improvement. Dozier suffered a bone bruise in 2018 and played through it, but in addition was already going to the opposite field more often in his career than in 2017 (as Jeff Sullivan noted in a Fangraphs article on Dozier), so perhaps age-related decline was already starting.

(I also find it wild that the most "sure thing" perceived on the 2B market this year was Jed Lowrie, who's spent his entire career being an injury risk AND is in his mid-30s, though he's managed to avoid injury these past two seasons and, not coincidentally, made them the best of his career.)

Ultimately, the problem here is that avoiding risk comes with cost. Dozier cost $9M for one year. That's basically paying for ~1 WAR, where it's very easy to see him producing 4. Rizzo's essentially paid the FA market rate for Dozier's floor, while gaining the full benefit of his ceiling, and with a 1-year deal Dozier won't block Kieboom. We weren't going to get Lowrie without a multi-year deal. (My personal choice would have been Marwin Gonzalez, who would have been low-risk on a multi-year deal because his versatility would allow him to provide value no matter where he had to be put on a game-by-game basis, but that's another issue, and I'm sure Scott Boras is well aware of his client's value as well). I can't see LeMahieu taking a one-year deal, either. Relievers are getting two and three-year deals worth significant money.

I do agree that the offseason shouldn't be finished. We do need another starting pitcher. We really ought to get another LH reliever so that Sammy Solis isn't starting the season as a member of the bullpen (I mean, at least guys like Barraclough and Rosenthal have been good, and the risk with Doolittle is that he gets hurt, not that he'll suck--Solis is simply a bad pitcher who's never been a good pitcher and "bad players" are something that a contending team should not have on its 25-man roster; at least Michael Taylor has shown that it's *possible* for him to luck into being an adequate hitter and provides elite defense and baserunning).

But honestly? Unless the proposed solution to the infield dilemma is "sign Manny Machado and move Trea Turner to 2B," whatever decision Rizzo made was going to be shackled to some measure of risk--injury risk, recovery risk (hello, Kendrick), or performance/decline risk.

Ole PBN said...

I really worry about the bullpen, way more than SP5 to be honest. Aside from Doolittle, who do you high confidence in? Glover hasn't lived up unfortunately, Rosenthal hasn't pitched since 2017, Barraclough is trending in the wrong direction, Miller might have been a fluke, Grace was good last year but has had his issues in the past, Suero is largely an unknown still, and Solis sucks. Aside from Solis being terrible and Doo being great, all of these guys are a roll of the dice. 6 of the 8, folks. I don't like that.

To me, it's easily our weakest part of the roster, and maybe the worst/most unknown group we've entered the season with since 2012. Yet the only thing I've heard on here is that we need a LOOGY to replace Solis, like Ollie Perez (palm-to-face). Don't have a problem with the Dozier move, although I think I would have taken Lowrie's deal should Kieboom not have been ready, plus Jed is more versatile in the infield than Dozier, but oh well. It pales in comparison to the issue in the pen. Trouble is, all these relievers are going for high dollars, which I'm averse to as well. I think if we sign Bryce, we package Eaton+ for a quality reliever to back up Doo, not spend it on a SP5. Just my opinion.

Kubla said...


I've seen the argument that if Dozier totally sucks or gets hurt, then Kendrick is there to be the starting 2b. I wouldn't be comfortable with this plan. For one thing, Kendrick is coming off an injury and good performance plus avoiding re-injuring himself isn't guaranteed. Another reason is that the super-sub role is important and it's nice to have a guy who can do that. What is the likelihood of one or more of Zim, Rendon, and an outfielder getting injured? At least one if not more of those events has happened every year. If that happens, we're suddenly back with Difo as the starting 2b which is...not good.

Of course, if Kieboom really is the future and comes up sooner than expected, then maybe we see Kieboom-Adams/Dozier as 2b-1b or Adams/Kendrick at 1b with Dozier in the super-sub role. That's asking more of Kieboom than I'd think anyone here is comfortable with, but it could happen. I'd rather have Dozier than Difo as the backup unless it's for late-game defense or pinch-running.

Maybe the Mets were in fact going galaxy brain when signing an entire roster full of middle infielders just to keep them away from other teams. Maybe they can teach a couple of them to pitch and just got SP4-5 on really reasonable deals.

BxJaycobb said...

I agree with @Dezo. Who are these good, and no/very low risk players? They’re people who cost like 3-4 times as much money. You don’t think Lowrie is a risk? He’s constantly injured and like 4 years older than Dozier and could turn into a pumpkin at any time. And he’s a multi year deal. If you’re arguing Dozier isn’t gonna be peak/good dozier....well, yes, that was a top 10 position player in baseball worth 5-6 WAR. The reason Dozier is a one year deal for 9m is because there’s a solid chance he will be an average or below average starter. The Nats need 2B to not be a hole. I think with Dozier, Kendrick, late game replacement for d Difo, and maybe late season Kieboom they have enough options for it to not be a hole. Good. Regarding “give me Corbin”.....Corbin’s not a risk? Corbin was a mediocrity until last year. The opposite of Dozier. There are no “super low risk very good players.” Hell even Bryce can get hurt. DJ LaMahieu has risk. He might be an easily below average hitter away from Coors.....250 with no power. Rizzo made a 1 yr commitment to a guy who worst case could be a write off and best case could be All Star. Good enough for me. I’m more interested in their next move. Bryce? 5th starter? That’ll be more interesting. Anyway, I don’t think you can say this is another “Nats doing the bare minimum” year. They’ve spent more money than basically anybody in baseball. (And BTW Suzuki/Gomes is pretty hard to look at and see a solid change of a bust).

Screech said...

Like this analysis, Harper, but wonder what alternative out there would ticked all your boxes (the main one, apparently, being "all in"). Machado?

EDGE said...

Agree with pretty much every comment that Harper is being unrealistic in his expectations!! 1 year $9MM "show me" deal with your career on the line for a former GG and 40+ bomb player is a good calculated risk for someone still relatively young, given the alternatives. Harper wants all-in, but I'm not sure what else shows the commitment of ownership to be all-in than by giving Harper a 10 year $350MM+ contract...

Anonymous said...

If we're talking "all-in"... sign Bryce; trade Eaton+Turner for Kluber; then sign Machado; extend Rendon; trade Kieboom+Garcia+Doolittle for Realmuto; trade Suzuki+Gomes+Taylor for Jansen; sign Kimbrel.

That is all-in. F the future. Get the best right now. So now that we know "all-in" is never going happen - can we refrain from bringing it up?

Harper said...

Dezo - I did say pessimists are doing the same thing! Read all the sentences!

Dezo/Bx - as I said there's "anything can happen" risk and "boom and bust" risk. You implictily accept the first with every player. The latter you introduce. I understand injury risk and I tail it off very quickly. Was it last year? That's a HUGE deal. year before that? Something to worry about but not a sticking point. Two years? Just something to consider. So Corbin and Lowrie's risks are just something to note for me where as Doziers is a big deal. I feel same way about preformance. Last Year : BIG DEAL. Two Years Ago : Hmmmm. Three? Eh, I'll take it under consideration.

Dozier is all last year worry. That's not terrible but you've paired him with another last year worry in Kendrick. Sanchez is a HMMMM. That's understandable but matters more because Corbin is a "take under consideration" and the Nats kind of didn't.

Kubla - I kind of like "oh we can get a deal on 2B? Let's sign them all then trade bait them" plan. If I thought that was the plan.

Ole PBN : Bullpen is an issue but I think they are done. I think they spent the type of money they are willing to spend on it last year. That failed. They aren't going to blow out their desired payroll closer to sure dominance. Instead they've set up paying Rosenthal like that if he is dominant. That's the best you are going to get this year.

Screech - I've firmly moved into the "Nats have to go all-in" group so that meant (1) resigning Harper NO CHECK (2) replacing Gio with a better starter CHECK (3) getting another back-end lights out pen option OR one of two best catchers available (though preferably both) NO CHECK.

Basically - they've tried it one way for 5 years - time for something new and my new is all-in.

There's wiggle room here. They went a lot better than just "better than Gio" for a starter so you can go a little less elsewhere. Same if they got a better 2B. Machado (or someone at these guys level in a trade deal) instead of Bryce. But in general this is what I wanted.

Failing that - if I was presented with the options, I can't deny the relative success the Nats have had. Even in the years they don't make playoffs they are good and usually roster construction is not the driving issue. So I would say stay the course.

I think they are going a third way - paying a little more for more potential but adding more risk. I don't like it. When there are less risky paths to success I'm not sure the point of a gamble.

Harper said...

"If we're talking "all-in"... sign Bryce; trade Eaton+Turner for Kluber; then sign Machado; extend Rendon; trade Kieboom+Garcia+Doolittle for Realmuto; trade Suzuki+Gomes+Taylor for Jansen; sign Kimbrel.

That is all-in. F the future. Get the best right now. So now that we know "all-in" is never going happen - can we refrain from bringing it up?"

This is great. Although I don't think you are getting Jansen for that.

Look as long as people are interested in what I think the Nats should do, I'm going to bring it up. We can stop talking about it when the Nats say they are done or the Spring starts and everyone is signed. That's only like a month and a half

sirc said...

There is an infielder magnet in New York City. It's created a vortex which launched Dozier away and into the waiting arms of the Nats. All other infielders have safely landed in The Bronx or Queens with a 2 year deal, now including DJ LeMahieu.

Jimmy said...

That's not all-in thats patently ridiculous and the team would be arguably worse. Doolittle is better right now than Kimbrel, Jansen has fallen off, you could easily squint and make the case for Rosenthal over him. Turner is projected to be very close to Machado. Grandal got ran out of LA for a reason.

Jimmy said...

Machado playing Short on this team would be bad. Eaton and Turner for Kluber is just a ridiculous trade, nobody makes that trade.

Jimmy said...

You are right though LA turns down that trade for Jansen, it doesn't improve them in anyway and puts a hole in their bullpen.

Jimmy said...

Also should we call you Harper or Anon from now on ;)

BxJaycobb said...

@Harper. If they are-sign Bryce, you will have to admit they’ve had a spectacular offseason. Agreed? (Seems like they have a very good chance at this point).

BxJaycobb said...

In fact if I had to guess I think Machado goes to Phillies and Bryce back to Nats.

BxJaycobb said...

@Harper, et al. This is a very good piece on Dozier acquisition and how his knee injury (and other injuries over his past) impacted his exit velocity. The graph suggests last year was a combination of both injury and him naturally losing some bat speed (looks like he had an acute injury and clearly played hurt, then recovered from the crazy aberrational dip, but still didn’t reach his prior EV heights. Check it out (if you’re not a subscriber to the Athletic I absolutely recommend it):

ssln said...

Great Harper. Now I have to explain baseball economics to you. The guy you want will cost more or demand a 2 year contract which the Nats aren't willing to offer because Kerboom is on the way or so they think. Kerbook offers a low cost alternative at second base next year that will allow the Nats to sign Tony Two Bags to a long term contract which they have to do. Doz is a one and done guy.
You ever see those financial commercials which say past performance is not indicative of future performance. I assume given you attitude that that makes you too scared to invest. You can't look at things one year at a time. There is a plan here even though it may escape you because you are drowning in stats.
A couple of other thoughts. They give an award each year for comeback player of the year. Looks like Rizzo is assembling a group that could vie for the award. Second, your stats failed to predict that Bryce would stink up the joint in his contract year which ought to tell you something about stats...though that point seems lost on you. Finally, I sold out all my stocks at the end of July and went to cash. That was before all the turmoil hit the market. You might want to consider that strategy in the near future. Call it some free advice for putting up with my comments.
Yes, you guessed it, people pay me a whole lot of money for that advice, so use it as you choose.

Anonymous said...

A week ago or so, the rumor mill was saying that Bryce really didn't want to play in Philly. Today, every Phillies fan in America seems fully convinced that they're going to sign him to a monster contact before today is over.

I'll believe it when I see it, but we'll find out soon enough I guess.

Anonymous said...

I find ssln fascinating. And not in a troll way at all - makes him sound too simple. I think it’s genuine self aggrandizement at a high level, which is just... truly special.

BxJaycobb said...

Ssln. I have no words. Lol

BxJaycobb said...

Anon: well the day is over and Bryce didn’t sign. Philly fans are nuts. I think it’s almost guaranteed they will get one of Machado or Harper, I just think it will be Machado. (If you were Machado would you prefer to play for Sox on the second citizen team in the city for a team that won’t compete for a few years or for Philadelphia? If you’re Bryce and the nats are willing to offer you as much as PHilly u don’t see how you can consider going there.) to me the danger scenario if is White Sox hop on Machado soon, and Philly is left with Harper or bust and they offer him 400m. Then we won’t get him I think. Otherwise I think Nats have a better shot than anybody.

Johnny Callison said...

I am trying not to get caught up in this. I have always had mixed feelings about Harper because of his tendency to make his "brand" supersede his play. But I can see that keeping him (and not letting him go to Philly) would be a big plus. So I guess rather than get excited/bitter he's leaving or excited/worried he's staying at a huge price, I'm going to just sit back and let it play out. Not reacting (but it's hard).

That having been said...if indeed Harper signs with Philly, I think that Nats should take their willingness to go over the luxury tax and sign Keuchel and maybe Tony Sipp. I do worry that the Nats won't quite be the Nats without Harper's power in the lineup, but if Rendon-Soto-Zim/Adams-Dozier can all produce 25-35 homers, then I think we should be okay. And if Dozier's D is back with improvement on his knee and Robles is productive enough to start in CF, the defense will be better.

Hot stove, indeed. My stove is starting to cool off. Need to throw some more fuel on the fire. Do you folks think Harper will sign this week? Apparently the Phils haven't even made an offer yet...

blovy8 said...

Machado and the Phillies are a match made in Hades. The way they enjoy dirty players, I'm sure there are already plans to erect a statute to Chase Utley.

blovy8 said...

Also, Dozier ought to fit right in on a club where guys play through performance-affecting injuries without telling anyone. At least in Dozier's case there was a fairly clear diagnosis. Maybe we can get some of the Twins' medical staff to work here?

Anonymous said...

So we now have reports from multiple reliable sources that the market thinks Machado is worth 8 years / $250 million.

This totally confirms my belief that even $300 million for Harper is something of an overpay, because Harper is no better than Machado is. At best they’re equals, and personally I think you could make a pretty plausible case that Machado is actually better.