Interesting piece. The first question that comes to mind here is, “What is the greatest drop in WAR from season to season?” While the depth of Dunn’s plunge may be nearly unparalleled, I wonder who has fallen the furthest, not necessarily the deepest. Has anyone dropped more than ~6WAR from one season to another?
Dunn essentially lost me my Ottoneu league. (he was also my highest paid player at $34)
Comment by Matty Brown — August 30, 2011 @ 1:22 pm
Dunn’s current season is the worst monetary “deal” in MLB history, if you go by what he’s worth according to WAR (5mil per WAR) and then subtracting what he actually earns to get a final result – he’s currently at $-27.5mil.
I’m a little confused as to why Dave would say the 9th worst season in the last 50 years ‘doesn’t sound so bad, after all’. What it had to be top 5? 99.9996% of the players on that list outperformed Dunn, which is pretty bottom of the barrel. If you filter it to require 400 PA (originally it was only 100 minimum PA), so basically only those that played a good chunk of a season, he is 6th-worst out of 9000. I don’t really think you need to “look at the context of the guys ahead of him” to realize how bad Dunn’s season is; it is apparent to the naked eye.
Enjoyed the piece…I would be interested to see the results of an offense only drop…OPS, wRC, whatever. I think that might have a bit more applicability since, as you correctly point out in your article, defensive evaluations from 20+ years ago are not the most reliable. Besides, when we talk about Dunn falling off a cliff, we’re primarily talking about offense since defense never made up a large component of his value.
I believe we’ve actually written about this in year’s past, but the list is mostly just guys who had a crazy good fluke year, then regressed back to normal the next year. Adrian Beltre went from +9.9 to +2.4 WAR in 2004 to 2005, for instance. When you’re that good one year, the distance you can fall is substantial, even if you’re still a pretty decent player.
anyone else notice that seems the bottom of WAR levels off? I think it suggests the metric is non linear. I think If you can have a season of 7 or 8 positive. I would assume you could get around a bit lower than where the bottom seems to be. Maybe there is something in the formula that is ‘holding’ the output WAR up?
Or maybe, probably more realistically, it’s just a function of the correlation of being terrible and playing time?
Very interesting article. To make this list you have to either have insane potential or a good track record to stay in the lineup in order to accumulate these stats.
But I am still surprised the Dunner’s WAR isn’t significantly lower
Comment by Bill but not Ted — August 30, 2011 @ 2:13 pm
Loved the piece.
Still don’t get the point of UZR though. Seems like every article it’s used in requires a note to its lack of validity.
Actually defense has made up a large component of his value, in a negative sense. I mean, if he had literally league average defense we’d be talking about a guy with about 40 WAR and borderline hall of fame traditional stats. I know you meant that defense has never been a big part of his game, but it’s surely has a big impact on his value.
Comment by A guy from PA — August 30, 2011 @ 2:17 pm
What’s more amazing, Dunn’s collapse or the number of PAs the Sox gave him?
I agree, not sure WAR is the best statistic in this case. It’s also not illustrative, so when you say Royesters WAR was 3.4 down. I have no idea what that means. Need the context of 28 SB, 28 errors, and a negative 3.38 WPA/LI
Yes the reader can get that information his/herself, but you risk losing the reader when he leaves your blog to research.
Comment by Bill but not Ted — August 30, 2011 @ 2:22 pm
Comment by Bill but not Ted — August 30, 2011 @ 2:23 pm
Oddly enough, I think Jose Guillen’s rookie season was considered a success by most in Pittsburgh. He had 70 RBI as a rookie with “good defense,” and he indeed finished tied for 7th in ROY voting (2nd of 3 Pirates in the top 10 during their “Freak Show” season).
i think it’s because, when you watch dunn, you can’t help but assume that the only way to do worse would be to attempt to hit with the narrow side of a cricket bat or perhaps one of those tight lies golf clubs
Comment by juan pierre's mustache — August 30, 2011 @ 2:33 pm
lack of validity is not the same as imperfect accuracy
Comment by juan pierre's mustache — August 30, 2011 @ 2:34 pm
And now he might not even get to beat out Rob Deer for that “worst average ever” distinction, because they’ve brought up the Tank (now with something resembling plate discipline!) and Ozzie has said that he’s up to play, not sit, and has basically told Dunn he’s not going to play much the rest of the way.
Comment by Yinka Double Dare — August 30, 2011 @ 3:02 pm
I think baseball-reference does WAR differently from fangraphs, but George Scott went from +4.4 in 1967 to -2.9 in 1968 (387 PA at .171/.236/.237) for a drop of 7.3. He bounced back, of course.
Bay has completely fallen off a cliff. It wasn’t bad enough that the Mets had to deal with the dead weight of Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez but now they’ll have the pleasure of 2 more seasons of Bay at $16M per… Ugh.
Hence the non-linearity. It’s baseball’s high-pass filter. To the extent that “replacement” players are available, negative WAR will be rare.
Comment by Someanalyst — August 30, 2011 @ 3:15 pm
Dunn is having a terrible year but he was never a good or great ballplayer to begin with in my view. He hits a lot of homers, doesn’t drive in many runs in relation to his high HR numbers and strikes out 27.5% of the time in his career.
His fielding, throwing and baserunning are all sub-par too. All the Sox are missing from him are the 30 Homers, likely to be solo shots.
I have not seen enough White Sox games this year to analyze why Dunn has fallen off a cliff this year at the plate. What is the consensus on the deterioration in his skills? Did the appendix surgery just decimate his bat speed? Why did it take the White Sox so long to figure out that Dunn was a turkey this year and needed to be shelved? Was it all about protecting the ego of a player you just signed for huge dollars? The White Sox very likely win the division if Dunn had performed at his typical production.
Comment by Phantom Stranger — August 30, 2011 @ 4:01 pm
That is the whole thing about WAR, that you have an infinite pool of available replacement level players. So a player that drops to a negative WAR could be replaced by a better player for free.
It actually works well, there were only 9 players with negative WAR last year and mostly, good established players from which teams expected turn around or with a very bad defense according to UZR (which sometimes it´s not valued by teams)
I’d like to point out that, if you theoretically replaced Dunn ($12M this year), Pierre ($8.5M this year), and Rios ($12M this year) with three replacement level AAAA scrubs, the White Sox would be 71-61, and tied with Detroit in the loss column.
The White Sox can be forgiven for playing Dunn to June or July. They had just handed him a pretty hefty contract, Dunn had been a model of consistency before this season, and I think it’s only human to assume that at some point he just had to regress to the mean. When it became clear that wouldn’t happen, they should have called up Viciedo, but the White Sox dragged their feet on that (didn’t want to disrespect any “veterans.”)
As to why he’s fallen off a cliff, your guess is as good as any. His BABIP is down (.243 compared to his career .292). His swing discipline %’s are virtually identical to last season’s. I didn’t watch him much with the Nationals or Reds, so I can’t say if his bat speed has slowed. The appendectomy may have had something to do with it, but to my eyes, a lot of it is in his head at this point. He really does just seem lost at the plate.
Comment by Red Line Trane — August 30, 2011 @ 4:57 pm
dfan mentions George Scott in ’68 – Scott was a young player then, and was evidently flummoxed by having his swing messed with, and by the pressure of providing RH power in the absence of Tony Conigliaro. In other words, there were identifiable reasons for his awful season.
Dunn does take the focus off Carl Crawford, who’s not usually much worse than Coco Crisp. Crawford’s falloff is worse than Bay’s.
I remember Robbie Alomar’s drop off for 01 to 02 as a massivef. I guess old age would explain it, since he never recovered, and was 2 years older than Dunn is when it happened. 6.7 -> 1.7 drop in WAR. I didn’t realize he ended up that useful, I figured he was done at that point.
If Dunn is still hitting .163 at the end of the season with, say, 495 PA’s, do they give him credit for qualifying for the (worst) batting title? Cause, even if he went 7-for-7 in the last 7 PA’s to qualify for 502, he’d still be lower than Deer.
Pretend you are right. Pretend he had exactly the same of everything, but 30 more solo HR and 30 fewer outs. I think 10 runs are thought to be equal to a win so 30 solo HR, 30 runs, 3 wins, 2out instead of five back. Big difference.
Of course he is also going to have 20 fewer 2B and 30 fewer 1B and maybe just occasionally there would be someone on base when he hit a HR but who cares about that?
I just keep coming back to the fact that White Sox would be significantly better if Daniel Hudson played DH. In addition to his hitting, Hudson is a capable starting pitcher, as demonstrated by his 14 wins for Arizona this year.
Comment by SoxfaninDC — August 30, 2011 @ 10:26 pm
Man, I had no idea at all that McCarty got that many at bats in ’93.
That was my first season watching baseball, and my persistent image of him is that of a hitter who was constantly striking out looking, with his hands extended over his head as to suggest the pitch was far too inside to be a strike.
And it felt like he did that EVERY SINGLE TIME. Then again, I was seven.
I think if you fall short of the qualified PA for the batting title, they give you 0 hits + necessary AB to meet minimum, and you get to keep your old average and win the batting title with it if your new average is still higher than everyone else’s.
So I guess it should work in reverse?
Comment by michaelfranko — August 31, 2011 @ 1:19 am
I saw Adam Dunn hit a huge home run in 2010 off Cole Hamels, one of the best lefties in the National League. His bat speed looked plenty good. As a Nats fan, I was sad to see him go, but developments have made Nats GM Mike Rizzo look like a genius. (Then he signed Jayson Werth for $126M and looked like an idiot.) The Dunn thing is troubling. His numbers have been amazingly consistent. For him to fall so far so fast is a real puzzler. Have a subpar year? Okay. Become completely inept? What’s going on with him??
Comment by WayneNordhagenLives — August 31, 2011 @ 5:46 am
Did I actually manage to post a -52 wRC my rookie season? It takes a lot of hard work to post a -0.8 WAR over 17 games. Good thing Dusty always had a contract for me wherever he went.
Comment by Neifi Perez — August 31, 2011 @ 10:02 am
I think there is a finite amount of AAAA players. They are also hard to find to fill a particular slot at some parts of the year. Around rule 5 draft time… yeah, you can get them.
Comment by Barkey Walker — August 31, 2011 @ 10:32 am
Yeah, but there is not a standard error reported for UZR, so it is big when the author wants it to be an small when the author wants it to be.
Comment by Barkey Walker — August 31, 2011 @ 10:33 am
I see, he is the anti-Jack Morris of batting. He bats against the score board.
Do you think he waits for nobody to be on base before he brings out the long ball swing?
Comment by Barkey Walker — August 31, 2011 @ 10:35 am
Dunn is so bad you almost have to start to wonder if he should have failed his physical or there is something wrong with his eyes. He can’t really have that much muscle weakness or he couldn’t hit any long balls.
Comment by Barkey Walker — August 31, 2011 @ 10:40 am
Maybe for one season yes, but for five different seasons?? He hit 40 homers five different times and his RBI totals never exceeded 106. Check the players that hit 40 homers in a season the last 50 years and his RBI totals are amoung the lowest.
Comment by Hurtlocker — August 31, 2011 @ 11:34 am
Yes it is, add maybe 30 or 40 runs created, which would be 3-4 WAR and he still is in the 1 WAR group. A 1.0 WAR player is barely above replacement.
Comment by Hurtlocker — August 31, 2011 @ 11:44 am
I had the same reaction and tossed up a quick article at THT yesterday.
Comment by Brad Johnson — August 31, 2011 @ 12:01 pm
What about Jason Bay last year? He was pretty brutal and he’s supposed to be a good player.
Comment by The Frankman — August 31, 2011 @ 2:10 pm
For those interested in possible swing mechanics issues, it appears he is starting his hands much sooner in the swing – supported by the spike in O-Swing% in 2010 and increased K%. Power outage also evident in comparing/contrasting 2008 and current swing ……
Willie McGee managed to pull a -2.4 WAR season (-2.6 on bb-ref) in 1999 with only 290 PA. That feat required a stubborn manager who knew better than the rest of the world. McGee even knew what damage he was doing and refused to come back the next year in spite of La Russa’s urging.
I did not agree with your analysis of Dan Meyer. I had always remembered him as one of the standouts of the Mariners first year (22 HR and 90 RBI’). So he had proven himself to some degree and 1978 was quite a drop-off. Not that he is anything close to Adam Dunn. Dunn’s season is one of the most bizarre things I can remember in MLB.