After struggling immensely for most of this season, things are starting to look up for Kansas City Royals third baseman Hunter Dozier.
While the Royals are 2-6 in their last eight games, Dozier heads into Sunday's series finale against the St. Louis Cardinals riding an equally long hitting streak. Ironically, he's spent most of that time in the outfield. At the plate, in 27 at-bats, Dozier has collected 10 hits. This includes a pair of doubles, but also seven strikeouts. Nevertheless, his .370/.414/.444 line is an encouraging sign with all things considered.
There's no denying that Dozier has been much improved since the All-Star break. In the second half of the season (26 games thus far), his numbers are up across the board. This includes an OPS jump from an unplayable .586 to a very manageable .703 between halves one and two. He's drawing more walks, too, recording 11 of them in 101 plate appearances versus 21 in 277 before the break.
With that said, let's pump the brakes just a bit.
26 games — roughly the equivalent of a month of baseball — isn't a very large sample size. It's perfectly fine to be excited about Dozier's improvement, but take it with a grain of salt. After all, this is the same player who hit .174 and struck out at an alarming 29.6% rate during the first 73 games of the season.
A very good month of July does not make an entire 2021 campaign, although it's been an eventful one for Dozier. A hand injury hampered him very early in the season, and he was briefly placed in the IL after a scary collision in May. Now finally healthy and confident, he's performing better at the plate. Is it possible that Dozier is better than his first half, but not quite as good as his second half to this point? Absolutely.
Cautious optimism is probably the best course of action. Because of his recent four-year, $25 million contract extension, it remains unlikely that the Royals will be able to part ways with their formerly struggling player. Dozier doesn't appear to be going anywhere, and his defensive value is a clear negative. In order to justify his contract, he needs to perform well with the bat. His recent run is a start, although it has to continue throughout the rest of 2021 for it to be worth hanging any hats on.