Around this time last year, I wrote a piece ripping on Brian Dozier as being one of the reasons why I was having a hard time feeling excited about the lowly Twins’ rebuilding season.
I would like to take this opportunity to officially walk back on that. Dozier quietly put together a stellar season last year offensively for a second baseman, posting a 5.2 wins above replacement.
But that was just a prelude. Halfway through 2015, Dozier has already matched his offensive production from last year and is doing it alongside a .841 OPS – which is an absurd figure for a second baseman or a leadoff hitter. All-Star game homeruns notwithstanding, he has become the sparkplug for the Twins’ offense and is now arguably one of the best everyday players in the American League.
Can we make the case that Dozier is a player of historic caliber? A look back through the 55 years of Twins history shows that after just 2.5 seasons as the starting second baseman, Dozier is already the team’s third-best player ever at the position. Measured in terms of runs scored (251), runs batted in (187), and WAR (12), he’s easily outpaced the Alexi Casillas and Luis Rivases. With 60 homeruns, he is already the Twins’ all-time leader at the position.
Granted, he has a long way to go to surpass Rod Carew and Chuck Knoblauch, who posted WARs of 40.2 and 37.7 in eight and seven seasons, respectively, as the Twins’ starting second baseman. Carew is obviously a Hall-of-Famer, while Knoblauch had some incredible seasons on bad Twins teams during the mid-1990s before being traded to the Yankees and forgetting how to throw to first base.
One can also make the argument that after those two greats, the competition for third place among Twins second basemen isn’t exactly stellar.
For all of you Twins historians out there, here’s a short list of all the players that have started more than one season at second baseman for the team: Casilla (2008-12), Luis Castillo (2006-07, Rivas (2001-04), Todd Walker (1998-99), Steve Lombardozzi (1986-88), Tim Teufel (1984-85), John Castino, (1982-83), Bob Wilfong (1979-81), Bob Randall (1976-78) and Bernie Allen (1962-66).
In their tenure as Twins starters, none of these guys managed to post a WAR higher than 5.9. Looking past Dozier, the title of third best Twins second baseman appears to be a tie between Rivas and Bernie Allen.
Neither of these guys impressed much. Rivas was supposed to be the speedy young sensation that would form the core of the Twins infield alongside Cristian Guzman in the early 2000s. That experiment was abandoned after four seasons, but not before Rivas was able to score 229 times and knock in 159 runs despite putting a WAR of -0.8, which makes him the worst-ever Twins second baseman when looking at that metric alone.
Bernie Allen had several strong seasons during the Twins nascent days after relocating from Washington. However, he was a non-factor on the 1965 World Series team that won 102 games but lost to the Dodgers in seven games.
So there you have it. The platitude of being the Twins third-best second baseman has long been vacant, but the numbers show that we finally have a contender. If you weren’t already excited by the rise of Brian Dozier, this should most certainly be enough to convince you.