Why Hunter Dozier is hitting again for the KC Royals

(Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images) /

Hunter Dozier has received a lot of criticism about his underwhelming performance for the KC Royals this season. He’s hit below .200 for the greater part of the year. The four-year, $25 million contract extension he signed before the season perhaps added to the negative critique, with some probably believing his poor hitting proved the deal was a mistake.

But could it be Dozier is beginning to improve?

He went 1-for-2 Aug. 9 to hit the .200 mark for the first time this season, then exceeded it by going 1-for-4 the next day. Through Friday, Dozier is slashing .207/.281/.370 with 10 home runs and 35 RBIs.

Although those numbers certainly aren’t eye-popping, his July was. Something seemed to click for Dozier, who slashed .304/.389/.443 with a .832 OPS, and eight RBIs, 11 walks, 10 runs, and 24 hits.

So, what brought about the sudden shift in Dozier’s game this late in the season?

Since correcting a mistake, Hunter Dozier is hitting again for the KC Royals.

After a July 18 game against Baltimore where he went 4-for-4 with two doubles, Dozier was reflective in a postgame interview, and took the blame for his poor performance to begin the year. Dozier began to form bad habits after injuring his thumb in April, and to his credit admitted the fault.

Ever since then, Dozier, presumably reverting back to his old swing style, has been performing more to his ability, something Fangraphs’ numbers tend to prove when comparing his first and second half numbers at the plate.

In the first half of the season, Dozier had 44.2% hard-hit balls, and averaged a launch angle of 17.8 degrees. With this type of swing, he recorded a .220 BABIP, 29.6 K%, 7.6 BB%, a BB/K of 0.26, and his wRC+ was 57.

Since the All-Star break, Dozier has 36.8% hard-hit balls, shifting his launch angle to 13.3 degrees. It seems by shortening his swing, Dozier has put the worst behind him, recording a .378 BABIP, lowering his K% to 24.2, increasing his BB% to 10 and BB/K rate to 0.41, and more than doubling his wRC+ to 124.

It’s worth pointing out that in adjusting his swing in the second half, Dozier has increased hitting to the opposite field from 17.4% to 22.4%, and has pulled less, shifting from 46.5% to 40.8%. Dozier has also inverted his groundball to flyball ratio, as his groundballs have risen from 35.5% to 42.1% and his fly balls have decreased from 45.3% to 34.2%. This shows that instead of overswinging and trying to hit home runs, Dozier is allowing himself to trust his bat and play to his strengths.

What do these numbers say about Hunter Dozier and the KC Royals overall?

The main takeaway from all this is that in admitting he was trying to change something he shouldn’t have, and working hard to remedy the situation, Dozier has found himself gradually getting hits.

As long as he continues to go about his own game and makes sure not to let any future injuries affect his swing style, Dozier looks to be on the way to performing close to his 2019 form (.279/.348/.522 with 26 homers and 84 RBIs) again. And that’s good for him and the Royals.

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Although Hunter Dozier got off to a rocky start in 2021, he’s improving and getting more hits for the KC Royals.