Adam Dunn: The Future of the White Sox Slugger

Wednesday August 31, 2011

 

 

MLB reports:  Not every player can fit onto a particular MLB team.  That is a baseball reality.  In fact, there are very few, if any players that could produce the same statistics playing for any team.  A player’s production is based on many factors, including home park, lineup, adaptability to particular cities and so on.  When a team trades for a player or signs a free agent, the hope is that the new player will be able to meet or exceed previous production levels on a new team.  Sometimes, the hope is that new environment will revitalize a stagnant player and breath new life into them.  In the case of Adam Dunn, the Chicago White Sox signed him to a free agent contract last year.  A large deal, 4 years for $56 million dollars.  A fair deal in my estimation at the time.  The White Sox by signing Dunn were hoping to land an established slugger to fit in the middle of their lineup.   What they ended up with was quite different.

Take a look at Adam Dunn’s current production in comparison to his career numbers:

  BA HR RBI     OBP
Regular Season .163 11 40       .290  
Career .244 365 920     .374  

To say that Adam Dunn has been anything but a disaster since his arrival in Chicago would be an understatement.  Prior to 2011, Dunn’s worst season produced an .819 OPS.  That was in 2003, his 2nd full season in the majors that was cut short by injuries.  Turn the clock and Adam Dunn sits with a .578 OPS this season with no likelihood of redemption.  While some pointed to Dunn playing in a new league for the first time and starting off slow, a turnaround was expected at some point this season.  Dunn has actually regressed to the point that he is benched by manager Ozzie Guillen at a frequent rate.  A sad state of affairs for one of the game’s previously most consistent sluggers.

For a two-year stretch, from 2003-2008, Adam Dunn was a 40 home runs and 100 walks guy.  In his last two seasons, Dunn played in a less than friendly hitters park in Washington and still hit 38 home runs per season.  Moving to the White Sox, expectations were that playing in a hitter’s park with a deep lineup would produce possible MVP type numbers for the burly slugger.  So what happened?  Why the sharp regression?

Part of the issue has been the move to the American League.  The adjustment has not worked for some hitters and we have seen NL hitters in the past that cannot play in the AL for whatever reason.  Glenn Davis is one famous example that comes to mind, who moved from Houston to Baltimore and literally fell apart overnight.  Dunn also is a full-time DH for the first time in his career.  Some hitters never take as well to moving off the field and into a DH role, citing inactivity and removal from the full game experience as distractions from their hitting.  Given though Dunn’s perceived weak fielding, at both first base and the outfield, a move to DH should have been a welcome change for him.  Yet the move was another factor in his year-long slump.

The main culprit in my estimation is the fit, or lack of in Chicago.  Perhaps it is the city, or the ballpark, teammates, media or his relationship with the manager.  Whatever the reason, I ultimately believe that Adam Dunn and the White Sox simply do not mesh more than anything else.  While  a return to the field and/or the National League may help, first and foremost Dunn needs to get out of Chicago and start fresh. 

I think of Chone Figgins and his move from the Angels to the Mariners.  Despite staying in the same division even, Figgins was never able to meet expectations in Seattle and regressed throughout his time with the Mariners.  Had he stayed in Anaheim, the chances are higher that Figgins would have continued playing his game and not transformed into a shell of his former self.  Carl Crawford in Boston and Jayson Werthin Washington are players that also signed big-ticket deals and also stayed in their respective divisions, yet faltered in the wake of big contract expectations.  But the difference with Crawford and Werth is that they have shown some glimpses of life this season, while Dunn has shown none.  I fully expect Crawford at least to be able to make the necessary adjustments and rebound by next season.  In Dunn’s case, I do not see that happening without a trade.

Nick Swisher is a situation that I will point to as an example.  From the moment Swisher was traded from the A’s to the White Sox, nothing went right.  After suffering through the worst season of his career in Chicago, Swisher was traded to the Yankees for pennies on the dollar and blossomed in New York.  The same will likely occur to Dunn.  A move to the Yankees is a possibility, for a high-profile team that can afford to take on or part of most of Dunn’s salary.  A trade for a bad contract is another one, with the Cubs for Zambrano or Giants for Zito as possibilities.  Better yet, a move to the Angels could also be the answer.  With Mike Trout ready to join an outfield of Peter Bourjos and Torii Hunter, the Angels may not have room for failed trade acquisition Vernon Wells.  The White Sox could plug Wells into their outfield and Angels use Dunn to replace Bobby Abreu as DH.  A long shot, but certainly a possibility.

No one can be sure if this season is an outlier or an indication of the beginning of the end for Adam Dunn.  Based on his strong body of work until this year, I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt that a rebound will occur.  The White Sox might wait it out and give Dunn another shot next year.  But then GM Kenny Williams has never been the patient type.  After moving Swisher very quickly, I expect the White Sox to do the same with Dunn.  This would be a classic buy-low situation for another MLB club.  Expect many calls on Dunn in the offseason and a new team by 2012.  Despite Dunn indications of having retirement thoughts due to his poor season, I cannot see him going down in this manner.  Adam Dunn will be back.  The only question is where.

  

 

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Posted on August 31, 2011, in MLB Player Profiles and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 17 Comments.

  1. How is Jason Bay not mentioned in this article? when it comes to bad contracts, his is as bad as anyone’s.

    • Bay deal is worse than Werth? Debatable. Bay was injured but when played has been terrible. If I had to list off all the bad contracts in baseball I would be writing for days, if not weeks. If you look at most long term contracts, you wouldn’t believe how many were bad. As high as 40% I estimate. Benoit with Tigers. Soriano with Yankees. Soriano in Chicago. Carlos Lee Houston. List goes on and on.

      Jason Bay was doomed to fail in New York. Bad park and fit for him. He had a great situation in Boston. Was a dumb move to leave. He took the money over the best thing for his career. That I saw a mile away when he signed. Dunn is a different situation. I thought it would work. Unfortunately it has not. Chisox need to cut losses fast or risk player completely flatlining. Thank you for comment and reading.

  2. As far as bad deals are concerned, Adam Dunn is in a class all his own. His strikeout total this season is going to surpass his batting average, Brent Lillibridge has more homeruns in 100 fewer at bats, he has more fingers on his left hand than he does hits against lefties this season, and he has managed to singlehandedly blow the White Sox’s chances at taking the weakest division in all of baseball. Sure you can blame the early bullpen struggles. You can blame Alex Rios. You can even blame Jake Peavy. But it’s hard to imagine the Sox not contending, even dominating, if Adam Dunn could do what he was signed to do……which is hit 40 homeruns. It’d be nice if Alex Rios could get his groove back, but he was never good for 40 homers and 100 RBI’s to begin with. Jake Peavy can only pitch every 6th day so even if he loses every time out, they still stand a fair chance in the AL Central. The bullpen has become the only consistently effective part of the White Sox arsenal this season. Absolutely lights out. Easily among the best in all of baseball. A productive Adam Dunn makes the entire lineup better as a whole. Look at Paul Konerko. Now look at Paul Konerko if he has a guy hitting behind him who can produce more than rancid p*** in the clubhouse urinals. He is batting over .300 (again) with basically no protection in that lineup. Not many players are cut from the cloth of a guy like Paul Konerko, but Paulie wipes his a** with the cloth Adam Dunn is cut from. And while we are talking about bad contracts, let’s not forget Alex Rios and Jake Peavy. I think Kenny Williams might be looking for a new job soon.

    • Thank you for the comment! While I appreciate your frustration with Dunn, I think you are upset with the White Sox as a whole and I can’t say that I blame you. If you take out the World Series, it starts to be difficult to understand sometimes how Kenny Williams has kept his job. To me, he treats his team like a glorified fantasy baseball team. He goes after big names, regardless of contracts and the cost of talent. Williams has given up the farm, including Gio Gonzalez and Daniel Hudson who are both missed very much. Rios and Peavy were huge blunders that cost the team on many levels. Dunn I did not consider a mistake at the time, but rather a very smart deal. But unfortunately, the fit in the AL, with the DH and the team has not worked out. Now Williams will have to flip him like he did with Swisher and either eat most of the contract or receive little talent back in return. I have a difficult time understanding the “plan” behind the team and without another a playoff appearance, Kenny’s time could come soon. Reinsdorf and the White Sox organization love Williams and have given him a lot of rope. But Williams will need to be accountable at some point for the team he built and you could see a change in the next year or two. Keep the faith!

    • Quite the contrary. I think the White Sox as a whole are an outstanding franchise. Been a die hard fan all my life. Hindsight is always 20/20 and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t thrilled when they acquired impact players such as Jake Peavy and Alex Rios (at the time). Even the shots in the dark like Ken Griffey Jr and Manny Ramirez stirred a great deal of excitement among those of us who are optimistic, the vast minority, I realize. I did not expect Adam Dunn to be this bad, but I didn’t expect him to be great either. I’ve never cared for the guy.  In fact, when the Sox signed Edwin Jackson late last year, the rumor was that he was supposed to be flipped to the Nats for Dunn.  I was happy that trade never happened. But Kenny still wanted his slugger, and now the Sox are stuck with him.  At this point, they would be better off keeping him around and hoping for the best.  They bought the ticket, might as well take the proverbial ride.  So my guess is, he isn’t going anywhere. But when you talk about a bad fit, this is probably the best example in MLB history (Top 5 easily).  This man has no pride, and is certainly not a grinder. And I could’ve told you that well before he put on a Sox uniform. And unless he gets his act together, he can expect to be booed each and every time his name is announced on the South side. If he doesn’t like it, he can go figure it out in Charlotte next year.

  3. “Where?” is NOT the only question: “will he suck?” is another question.

    • 10 good years for Dunn and 1 bad. He is still young. If he gets a change of scenery, likelihood is he will rebound. But needs out of Chicago and FAST! Thank you for comment and reading!

  4. Dunn and $ to the Yankees for Burnett. This would probably have to be in the offseason once Posada is retired. Both players need a change of scenery badly…

  5. I don’t see Dunn bouncing back to anything more than a marginal ML’r, if that.
    What’s happening to Dunn is not atypical for players of his style and size.
    The most recent example just retired in 2008 and like Dunn, he was a 31 yr. old big lumbering 1B who seemingly lost it overnight, albeit not to Dunn’s extent.
    He never did recover, nor will Dunn.
    I’m sure you can figure out to whom I’m alluding.

    Lets not forget Andruw Jones, another guy who basically lost it at 30. A player who up to that point looked like a sure fire HOF if he just added a few career number padding seasons.

    Whatever your feelings on Bill James, and there seems little middle ground when it comes to Mr. James, his prescience on players like Dunn, Sexton(as if you didn’t know), Mo Vaughn etc. has been on the money. He covered it in one of his earlier books when discussing Alvin Davis as a player with old player skills. The end comes quick and early for these types and Adam Dunn is the poster boy.

    I like Adam Dunn and I wish him well, but the odds are stacked against him. Sure he might come back next year and improve upon this season from hell. I mean how could he not. But to wager on anything close to his 40HR .375OBA .500SLP is a suckers bet.
    As they say, the chances are slim and none.

    • Sir, I have to say that your comment is one of the most intelligent and well thought ones I have read in some time. You have given myself and our readers much to consider. You clearly know your “stuff” and you present strong arguments for me to respond to.

      Let me start off by saying this. I did the journey to Cooperstown for the 2nd time in my life this summer. My friend and I drove over six hours each way to the hall. Our reading companion? No word of a lie: The Bill James Abstract. I’m not going to say we read every player listed in his top lists by position, but we came close. While I am not a Bill James worshipper, I heavily respect the man. He is a leading authority in baseball and while I don’t agree with everything he says, I agree with much of it.

      I remember the Alvin Davis commentary quite well. I thought his comments on a player with old player skills as quite interesting. James has interesting commentary and banter in his book. It is the stories and whitty remarks that I actually most enjoy. So let’s take Davis and Sexon and see what we come up with.

      Davis literally became useless at the age of 31. Actually, his decline at age 30, his last full season and last one as a Mariner. There are several reasons for the decline in my estimation that need to be considered: (1) decline in free agency year (pressure that not all players respond well to); (2) signed as free agency with angels in last season (new team pressure); (3) only played in 40 games with Angels before being dumped and out of baseball (injuries? Look at Vernon Well’s stats in 1st half of season. Should he have been released also? (4) Davis stopped playing in 1992. In this day and age, players are far smarter about nutrion and exercise, than even back then. We have to consider the time period. But overall, I propose if Davis had stayed in Seattle, the decline might not have been as bad and he may have been injured to an extent that we do not know. Something is not fully adding up there. Also, while Davis was a good player, his numbers do not come close to Dunn. He had good walk rates, but power nowhere close and for as long as Dunn.

      Then Sexon, sexyboy as they called him. Had one season of 98 walks, another with 89. Dunn had 7 seasons of 100+ walks. Dunn lifetime OBP .374. Sexon .344. Similar SLGs. Sexon hit for higher average. But interesting comparison. Sexon though has suffered though an injury filled career compared to Dunn, who has stayed relatively healthy compared to Dunn. My impression of Sexon always was power hitter, not best eye at the plate who strikes out a lot but doesnt walk enough. His lack of walks caught up to him, as going all or nothing without walks exposed him as a weak Rob Deer hitter in many ways. Dunn on the other hand to me was always a power hitter who struck out a lot but took walks at a great rate. While not necessarily a future hall of famer, Dunn was in a category far above Sexon.

      Sexon, like Davis showed a decline in his last full season. They a terrible year followed and he was out of baseball. Dunn did not show that decline year in 2010 and just literally flat this year. To simply write him off as another Sexon or Davis discounts his body of work until this year and the factors behind his decline this year. Should Swisher have been written off after his year in Chicago? Yankees fans don’t think so after what he has done in the Bronx. What about Crawford after this season in Boston? In Dunn’s case, new league, city and position have to play a part. Not everyone fits in Chicago and it is my argument that he clearly has not fit in with the White Sox. Perhaps it is failing to adjust to the AL or the DH. Those are serious factors to consider. I would like to see Dunn back in the NL for another season or two before passing final judgment on him. While big and a home run hitter like Sexon, they are not the same hitter. Dunn had less injuries and did not show the same signs as Sexon. An interesting point and one that I respect you for coming up with. But unlike Davis and Sexon, I see a rebound coming in Dunn. This is a classic change of scenery situation. To me Dunn is more Swisher. Compare the players and you will see what I mean. Thanks for reading and the comments, much appreciate it!

  6. Your forgot about the fact that he doesn’t pick up a bat or a weight in the offseason. He said a couple weeks ago that before spring training the last time he picked up a bat was with the Nationals. Thats an issue. I think he fits in fine with the team. The Sox fit his personality well and I’m not really sure what would make you think otherwise unless it’s a complete guess.

    • Watching Dunn in games and his general demeanor is what tells me the fit is not best. While he might be having fun at BP and in the clubhouse, he is not enjoying playing ball right now.

      Let me ask you this: assuming Dunn has his routine or lack of in the offseason, do you think at 31 he really lost it all together? If Dunn had stayed in Washington, would his stats have been any different than currently in Chicago?

      I discuss in the article the move to the American League for the first time, a DH and playing in Chicago. Those are factors that should not be discounted. Thanks for reading and let’s see where Dunn plays in 2012. I expect a rebound.

  7. Thanks for the complement. I understand their are differences between Dunn, Sexton, and Alvin Davis. We’ll never find the perfect match for any player so all we can do is go with what we’ve got. I believe Dunn would be the offspring of Davis(old player skills) and Sexton(big power hitter) if you will, two types that don’t age well.

    The way I see it, we’re in uncharted territory with Dunn. You mentioned Swisher who had a down year in Chicago.
    Their was really nothing out of the ordinary about his year that many players don’t have sprinkled throughout their careers. It wasn’t a historically bad year.
    Adam Dunn is having the kind of year we’ll be telling our grandchildren about. He’s having a bizzaro Barry Bonds year.

    The closest we have in recent history, for comparison sake, would be Andruw Jones in 2008. He was every bit as inept as Dunn except Torre mercifully took out of the line-up before he could do any more damage.
    Jones actually recovered better than I expected, but he’ll never be the player he was before ’08, and he had a more rounded game than Dunn.

    Again, it’s hard to predict with Dunn simply because no player has ever fallen so hard from one year to the next, but that certainly isn’t something in his favor.

    • Interesting take. I agree that difficult to compare different players as no two are the same. When I look at Swisher’s stay in Chicago, he looked like a complete regression rather than an off-year. When he went to New York, people expected him to platoon and be a bit player. Swisher and Dunn are comparable to me as high walk, obp and home run sluggers. Swisher resurrected his career, I believe Dunn can do the same thing.

      I am beating a dead horse, but one year does not necessarily spell the end for me. Let’s give him one more year before passing judgement. Without acknowledging the circumstances surrounding his season including all the changes, I think it is difficult to make a final determination on Dunn.

  8. Tony Kornheiser interviewed Nolan Ryan in Sport magazine – 1980 – and it’s well worth the time, not least at Kornheiser’s ill-disguised wonder at why anyone would live in Ryan’s Texas home. http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/6761350/bringing-all-back-home Ryan had just become the highest-paid player in baseball. “Last year even as great a player as Rod Carew got off below his standard. You see what I mean? The free agents have a tendency to give in to the pressure because they want so badly to show the fans they’re worth the money.” I got to watch Dunn a lot at Nats Park, and I’m really rooting for the guy. He’s a true athlete – backed up Major Applewhite as a quarterback at Texas – and why would he change the off-season routine that had worked his whole career? Tom Boswell says its just a slump, and no one knows why they happen and why they end, but it will end. Mike Wallace and Phil Wood say that Dunn loved to play the field and hated the idea of DH’ing. Dunn himself said that all the sitting and waiting would cause him to lose focus, and maybe he was right. Ryan Zimmerman disputed Dunn’s reputation as a bad fielder, crediting Dunn with helping him cut down on throwing errors from third. Zimm said that Dunn’s so big, it’s like throwing to the backstop. Here’s hoping he returns to form!

  1. Pingback: Baseball Blogs Weigh In: Mariners, Dunn, Giants | Forex News

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