Adam Dunn as a Pitcher

The year is 2014. Barack Obama is the President of the United States. Oil is selling at $98.29 per barrel. Ebola is spreading in Sierra Leone. A European space probe, after 10 years of orbit, will soon connect with the comet it is intended to study. And Adam Dunn pitched in a regular season baseball game last night.

This is like the Ben Revere home run of position players pitching. This is what we’ve all been waiting for, even if we didn’t know it before last night.

Screen Shot 2014-08-06 at 9.10.37 AM

Adam Dunn, the active leader in home runs among left-handed hitters, pitched a baseball. That’s one way he is exactly like Babe Ruth. I don’t know how many other ways Adam Dunn is exactly like Babe Ruth, but one more exists than did yesterday morning.

Maybe Dunn’s outing shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. We are in the year of the position player pitcher, after all. Dunn became the 15th different position player to take the mound this season, easily the most since the expansion era began over 50 years ago.

Listening to the White Sox pregame show, in retrospect, is quite a treat. The naïveté of the announcers, not knowing what lies ahead, is gold. Ken Harrelson notes the White Sox have had success against the Rangers at home. White Sox pitchers entered the evening with a 2.70 ERA in their last nine home games against Texas! Both announcers were enthusiastic about John Danks‘ prospects against an injury-riddled Rangers lineup. No mention was made of Adam Dunn’s potential impact as a pitcher. Little did they know that nine innings later the score would be 15-0 Rangers, White Sox fans would be going bonkers and a 6-foot-6 man nicknamed “Big Donkey” would be taking the mound and making a dream come true.

A dream come true for all of us, I mean. I’m sure it was nice for Dunn, too.

Here’s the book on Adam Dunn, pitcher: He has a three pitch repertoire, relying primarily on what PITCHf/x is calling a “changeup” that sits 80mph but tops out at 83 with considerable armside run. He occasionally mixes in a slider at 76 and can drop in a slow curveball at 74. He is an absolute strike throwing machine, with a 54% zone percentage that would be a top-10 mark in baseball this season. His 9.00 ERA is heavily inflated by a .400 BABIP that surely points to future regression. A 0% swinging strike percentage doesn’t bode well for a potential surge in strikeouts, and he could do himself some favors by lowering that nasty 16% walk rate.

Mechanically, Dunn has room to improve. His “Inverted U” mechanics are sure to elicit future injury concerns:

Screen Shot 2014-08-06 at 10.05.38 AM

And he had trouble repeating his release point:

Screen Shot 2014-08-06 at 10.11.19 AM

As mentioned earlier, Dunn did a good job of pounding the strike zone, mostly living in the upper-third thanks to his frame. However, likely as a result of his not-so-fluid mechanics, when Dunn missed his spots, he missed them bad:

Screen Shot 2014-08-06 at 10.13.22 AM

There’s the overview. Now let’s get to the sequences.

Somehow, in an inexplicable display of incompetence, neither television broadcast captured Adam Dunn’s first pitch. THIS IS ADAM DUNN PITCHING, FOLKS! While I can’t show you Dunn’s first pitch, I can tell you that it was his softest fastball/changeup of the night, at 77mph, and was the pitch most down the middle, waist high and six inches off the center of the plate. Dunn just wanted to get ahead of Elvis Andrus, and he did. Good job, pitcher Adam Dunn.

Dunn came back with another fastball and just missed low and away. Catcher Adrien Nieto did a nice job framing an already pretty good pitch, but Dunn didn’t get the call. He felt he was getting squeezed:

dunn1

Clearly still STEAMING over the last call, Dunn let his emotions get the best of him and decided to brush Andrus back with a little chin music:

dunn2

Sly bastard knew exactly what he was doing.

dunn3

After another ball missed low and away, Dunn fell behind 3-1. Then, by getting Andrus to ground out weakly to second base, Adam Dunn entered a bajillion-way tie for ALL-TIME ERA LEADER (minimum 0.1 innings pitched):

dunn4

After getting ahead 0-1 on the next batter, Jim Adduci, Dunn reached back and found an extra gear, firing an 83.1mph heater, his fastest pitch of the night. Adduci hit a chopper back up the middle but shortstop Alexei Ramirez lost it in the transfer. THIS IS WHY YOU DON’T USE ERA, SHEEPLE! ADAM DUNNS HAVE NO CONTROL OVER BALLS IN PLAY:

dunn5

Dunn walked the next batter, Adrian Beltre on five pitches. Then J.P. Arencibia fouled out to first base on the first pitch because of course he did. An Adam Rosales single on an 0-1 count in the next at-bat gave the Rangers a much needed insurance run, and Dunn’s ERA ballooned to 13.64, which is better than John Lannan‘s ERA this year.

Then we got to see what Dunn was really made of. Rougned Odor stepped to the plate, not knowing that he was entering a steel cage death match, one which he would not leave victorious. Dunn started Odor off with a first-pitch strike before Nieto called for the hook:

dunn6

Maybe it wasn’t a curve. Maybe it was just Adam Dunn pitching. But he was ahead in the count, there were two outs, they were already down 16-0 and I enjoy life, so I’m going to pretend like they called for a curveball.

Another missed fastball and Dunn got behind in the count, 2-1. Dunn had clearly lost command of the four-seamer, so he went with something different:

dunn7

This was definitely a called slider. You could see it when Nieto put more than one finger down before the pitch. You could see it in the movement. And you could definitely see it in Nieto’s shit-eating grin after the pitch. Odor, clearly, was overmatched, and did his best to simply waste the pitch and pray to whatever God he believes in that Dunn didn’t throw another.

He didn’t, but that wouldn’t matter. Dunn missed on 2-2 with another fastball before Odor worked the count full. Like all good things in life, including life itself, Dunn’s night on the mound came to an end.

dunn8

He escaped the jam. Adam Dunn threw 22 pitches. 12 of them went for strikes. He threw 20 fastballchanges, a maybecurve and a pretty decent looking slider. He allowed one run on two hits and a walk. He owns a 9.00 ERA, 6.14 FIP and 8.65 xFIP. That’s the exact same line that Eric Surkamp pitched to one inning earlier, and Dunn needed five less pitches.

But the numbers in this situation aren’t what’s important. Adam Dunn pitched, and that is amazing. Baseball is amazing. Now, I’ll leave you with a hastily-made collage of White Sox fans thoroughly enjoying themselves in a 16-0 blowout, because that’s what this is all about.

Screen Shot 2014-08-06 at 11.23.26 AM



Print This Post



August used to cover the Indians for MLB and ohio.com, but now he's here and thinks writing these in the third person is weird. So you can reach me on Twitter @AugustFG_ or e-mail at august.fagerstrom@fangraphs.com.


Comments Are Loading Now!