Dozier has hit 172 homers in his career, and 157 of those homers have gone to left field or left-center field. He likes the idea of being able to hit at Nationals Park, which he likens to Target Field. Dozier played 955 games over seven seasons with Minnesota.
Dozier is right. Both Parks had HOV Sport (now known as Populous) as the architect. Nats Park broke ground in 2006, Target Field in 2007. Nats Park seats 41,339 and Target Field 38,649.
“I think it’s a very similar park to Minnesota,” Dozier said of his new home park on a conference call. “I think the consensus around the league if you were to ask any hitter (is) it’s a very true park,” Dozier said. “I think Minnesota is more deeper in the alleys, especially right-center than left-center, not so much in center field. They are very similar parks, very true parks.”
He was certainly correct about the left field and left-center alley dimensions. Down the left field line, it is 339 feet at Target Field and 337 at Nats Park. Left-center is 377 feet at both parks. But right-center 367 feet at Target Field and 370 feet at Nats Park. Right field is 335 feet at Nats Park and Target Field is 328 feet. Center field is 411 feet at Target Field and 402 feet at Nats Park.
“Obviously, I hit the ball in the air a lot,” Dozier said. “I think I played, I know of two series, and maybe another one in the Nationals’ park. I’ve always enjoyed playing there. You can see the ball really well. I think I’ve hit a couple of homers there. The ball travels to left and I don’t go right too much.”
He has hit one of his 172 homers at Nationals Park. It came on April 24, 2016, a three-run homer off of Stephen Strasburg to give the Twins a 4-1 lead in the eighth inning. The Nats forged a dramatic comeback though, scoring three runs to tie the game and then won it 6-5 in the 16th. Bryce Harper hit a solo homer in the ninth to tie the game and Chris Heisey walked off with a homer in the 16th.
Although Nats Park can get a little chilly in April, Dozier believes it will likely be better weather conditions early on in the schedule than what he was used to in Minneapolis over the years.
“I love playing in warm weather,” said Dozier, a Mississippi native. “I think it’s a huge factor, especially early on in the season. Get yourself going offensively. I think you kind of know what you are going to get with myself and general manager Mike (Rizzo) stated that numerous times that you kind of keep doing the same thing. I even told Mike, ‘You are going to get some good days from me, but you are going to get 100 percent from me every single day whether that’s really good one day or really bad.’ “
Dozier has embraced analytics to aid in his hitting over the years, accruing 954 hits and an All-Star citation in 2015. He explained that he actually had implemented the technology even before it was an everyday strategy.
He is excited about working with Nats hitting coach Kevin Long in part because Long is also a big proponent of how launch angle, hitting speed off the bat and spray charts can aid in solving a pitcher each at-bat.
“I’m a big fan of analytics,” Dozier said. “I really do feel that analytics, and I guess the feel for the game, they have to coincide in order for players to be good and for teams to be successful. And with the launch angle and all that kind of stuff, I kind of when I changed my approach back in 2012. Going into 2013, there was no launch angle or any of that stuff, but looking back at it now, that’s kind of exactly what it was.
“They didn’t have a name for it then. And that’s recognizing your strength and do everything you can to be really good at your strength, rather than try to tweak (things). One of those strengths was getting the ball in the air to left field and left-center field. And then when I got that part of it, I really enjoyed doing that.
“It’s going to be a fun year with a hitting coach that believes (in that strategy), really honing in on your strength and running with that. Some guys’ strengths aren’t hitting the ball in the air, which is fine. But recognizing your strengths and going with it is what we are thinking.”
A Gold Glove winner in 2017, Dozier is also very good at defense, especially turning double plays. He said that the relationship he has with his shortstop is critical to getting into a good rhythm. Similar to basketball, when a guard knows where a center wants the ball on a post-up, a second baseman must focus on where his shortstop likes the ball to turn the twin killing. He is excited about getting the opportunity to work with Trea Turner soon in West Palm Beach.
“I think throughout my career, I’ve had a different shortstop every single year, but they’re all pretty good at turning the double play,” Dozier said. “I’m a guy that, playing up the middle, I love to know everything about who I’m turning the double play with, not just positioning and feet, but your positioning on the field, your thought process.
“How you react to certain balls to left versus your right. Little things within the game that can really maximize your ability, whether it be at turning double plays or playing defense in general. That’s why I’m anxious to get down there (to Florida) and work with Trea and some other guys on a lot of different things. It’s always a challenge, but a good challenge.”