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Dozier stays hot, gives KC early lift with homer

@FlannyMLB
April 15, 2019

CHICAGO -- Royals third baseman Hunter Dozier remembers a moment last August when he finally decided to clear his head of any thoughts about hitting mechanics, and instead focus more on just competing at the plate. The results began to come around. His average exit velocity jumped, he remembered, and

CHICAGO -- Royals third baseman Hunter Dozier remembers a moment last August when he finally decided to clear his head of any thoughts about hitting mechanics, and instead focus more on just competing at the plate.

The results began to come around. His average exit velocity jumped, he remembered, and while the numbers don’t look wildly impressive (.770 OPS and a .490 slugging percentage from Aug. 14 on), he felt he was turning a corner.

And now, Dozier is as locked in as any Royals hitter, and perhaps as anyone in baseball. Dozier is riding a six-game hitting streak after blasting his fourth home run in Monday night’s 5-4 loss to the White Sox.

Also entering Monday, Dozier had the highest rate of hard contact (95+ exit velocity) per swing at 26.9 percent of anyone in baseball, higher than J.D. Martinez and Mike Trout. Even many of Dozier’s outs are scorched.

“That doesn’t surprise me,” manager Ned Yost said of the hard-contact statistic. “He’s been smoking the ball. And he ended the season last year smoking the ball.”

The key, Dozier said, is simply not thinking so much at the plate.

It started in 2017, when Dozier missed most of the season because of injuries.

“Missing 2017 really set me back,” he said. “I was sitting in Arizona in 2017 while I was hurt and I was trying to think of ways to improve my swing, and I think I messed up my mechanics a little bit.

“Even last year, I remember thinking whenever I struggled that it must be mechanics. And that just made it worse. I started looking at other guys’ swings and I would tinker with mine. That’s the wrong thing to do.

“Toward the end of last year, I said heck with it, I'm just going to go with what I have and just compete up there. And it’s worked out.”

The Royals' coaching staff is acutely aware of Dozier’s knack for overthinking.

“We don’t let him do that anymore,” coach Pedro Grifol said. “He’s got perfect mechanics. He’s got really good hand-eye coordination. All that’s left is to get there mentally. So, no, we don’t let him mess with his swing.”

Dozier also limits the amount of video of opponents he watches.

“For me, we get so much information up here that sometimes I look at that too much,” he said. “I get thinking too much about what guys might throw me. I think early this season, I was thinking too much and not just competing. I have to dumb it down. Just see ball, hit ball. That’s what works for me.”

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter at @FlannyMLB.