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:

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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.

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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.

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August is an associate reporter for MLB.com, covering the Cleveland Indians. He previously covered the Indians, Browns and Cavs for the Akron Beacon Journal and ohio.com. He tweets often about the Indians, assorted nerdy baseball things and also other stuff, too. He'd like it if you followed him on Twitter @AugustF_MLB, but you don't have to.


86 Responses to “Adam Dunn as a Pitcher”

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  1. Meat Cart says:

    #KeepNotGraphs

    +64 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Yirmiyahu says:

      Is this a Notgraphs post? Maybe they’re just moving Notgraphs to the main page and relegating the serious analysis to a sidebar. I’d be okay with that.

      #KeepNotgraphs #KillCistulli

      +38 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Balthazar says:

      Ha, when was the last time anybody saw a 275 lb. pitcher with three days of beard on the mound? _Nobody_ is going to charge the mound on this character. It’s the intimidation factor that got him those outs; that or that the opposing batters couldn’t stop laughing.

      A great baseball moment. Like having two pitchers in the outfield converging on a pop-up which—‘scuse me—drops between them for a hit.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  2. The Ancient Mariner says:

    I saw someone tweet yesterday that when Dunn pitched to Beltre, they had a combined 879 career HR (or something in that range), which is probably the highest ever.

    Baseball is weird.

    +56 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • fred says:

      I bet it’s not. Did a position player ever pitch to Barry Bonds or Hank Aaron late in their careers?

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • The Ancient Mariner says:

        Probably not.

        Even if so, that gets you to the level of “Hank and Tommy Aaron hit more MLB HR than any other set of brothers.” True, but only because Tommy Aaron managed to make it to the majors; he wasn’t terribly meaningful to the total.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • james says:

        ruth did pitch a few innings (or maybe only 1) late in his career, when he had 680 something. he pitched 9 innings in 1933. Babe only pitched against the Sox, and I cannot find a box score for the whole game, but assuming the Red Sox used their normal lineup. Marty McManus had 112hr at the end of 1933. So at best 689 and 112 makes 801.

        i cannot find any record of any of the other all time power hitters also pitching (since you would pretty much either need an all time great pitching late in his career to another late in his, or in ruths case, just ruth plus anyone of any minor significance)

        +13 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Anon says:

        I scanned the lists of pitchers that Bonds and Aaron faced and didn’t recognize any position players outside Brooks Kieschnick who didn’t have that many HR before ro after he was a position player.

        I did however find out that Hank Aaron faced a pitcher named Ozzie Osborn (no e) so that is something I did not know

        Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Anon says:

      Believe it or not, this exact topic came up on another site that I frequent but it was in the context of most HR for a pitcher/catcher battery. Ted Williams pitched an inning and he faced both Hank Greenberg and Rudy York but that was very early in his career (1940) so he was a long ways from his 521 Hr he finished with. The 2 interesting side notes from that game are that the catcher who caught Williams also caught Babe Ruth (Joe Glenn) and also that Jimmie Foxx was the starting catcher in that game – Foxx caught 108 games in his career, but he was gone by the time Williams pitched. http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/BOS/BOS194008241.shtml

      Babe Ruth pitched 1 game in 1930 and 1 in 1933 (actually both complete games). I went through the box score for 1933 since that was near the end for the Babe but didn’t find anyone who would push it up past 800 or so. Also no luck with 1930.

      Jimmie Foxx pitched a bunch at the end of his career in 1939 and then actually pitched in 9 games in 1945. I went through the box scores and didn’t see any big names that he would have faced but I did spot 1 near miss: on 8/27/45, Foxx pitched the final inning of a 4-0 game and the on-deck hitter when he retired the final batter was Mel Ott. At that point in their careers they would have been well over 1,000 total homers. I’ll leave it to someone else if they want to go through each name to see what the HR totals were.

      Stan Musial pitched but that was in 1952 when he was only in the neighborhood of 200 or so career HR and he faced a single batter, Frank Baumholtz, who had about 15 career HR at that point and ended up with 25.

      +7 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Shut up, bat sixth and get your arse in left says:

        Thank you for the info, I knew Foxx had pitched more than a handful of innings in 1945 and 1946 with the Cubs and wondered if he pitched to Williams then realized that was impossible due to the different leagues. I immediately thought of Hank Greenberg and the Pirates. I guess I was a year off, thinking he pitched in 1946. Freakin World War 2 fogs my memory with stats and who was active. Why do I always forget about Mel Ott?

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • EDogg1438 says:

        Does Jimmie Foxx have the most career home runs for any player who has both pitched and caught?

        Vote -1 Vote +1

        • Anon says:

          Well, the only players over 500 HR who have pitched are Ruth, Foxx and Williams so I’m going with yes.

          Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Balthazar says:

        Jimmie Foxx was such an incredible player. How much hyperbole would a guy like that get today. And often he wasn’t even the best player on his own teams. Really, really different era.

        I think about Jimmy Foxx and Lefty Grove every time somebody like B. J. Upton signs a nine-figure deal or we start talking about what Max Scherzer will go for on the open market. Not blaming anybody, it’s just that the $$$$ distorts our views of actual players’ values a bit, methinks.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  3. Bitter Cubs Fan says:

    John Baker pitched last week and got the win, where’s his article?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  4. MikeS says:

    The crowd was on their feet cheering when Odor had two strikes on him.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  5. fred says:

    Is it me or is August Fagerstrom version 2.0 of Jeff Sullivan.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  6. AD says:

    “when Dunn missed hid spots”

    Can’t hardly blame him for that, can we?

    +29 Vote -1 Vote +1

  7. Given Her The High Hard One says:

    Remind me about the purpose of instagraphs. This site has been in a tailspin recently.

    -51 Vote -1 Vote +1

  8. Agent Cooper says:

    The only way this could have been better is if he got a K, gave up and walk, and allowed a dinger.

    +107 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • TKDC says:

      Not having seen this game or heard about this, I actually thought the article was going to be about a pitcher with an unusually high rate of all three of these things, perhaps with other more nuanced similarities. This was probably a better article.

      +11 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Mike says:

        Well the leader in TTOs right now is Aroldis Chapman, but a 53.1% K-rate will do that for you.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

        • TKDC says:

          Francisco Liriano would be my pick. Min. 100 innings, he is 53rd in HR/9 (Dunn is 31st in HR), 15th in K% (Dunn is 4th), and second in BB% (Bingo Adam Dunn!)

          Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Balthazar says:

      For a guy with a fast-up, a whoppsiedoddle, and a glider for a repertoire who didn’t even have a bullpen session to liven up his arm, Big Scratchy had a high old time out there. Best moment of that game, for sure.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  9. mettle says:

    that was a pretty amusing write-up of a pretty amusing event.
    well done.

    +15 Vote -1 Vote +1

  10. vince says:

    That is a very solid maybecurve. Any word on his grip for the pitch?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  11. Stringer Bell says:

    Hey Fagerstrom, are you the Finnish guy Conan was yelling for several years ago? Way to not answer your door, dick.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  12. a eskpert says:

    He’s got Sabathia’s build, at least.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  13. yuh says:

    John Cho sure looks like he’s ready for another journey to White Castle.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  14. Joe says:

    This is a legit analysis, why would it be on notgraphs?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  15. Snips says:

    “THIS IS WHY YOU DON’T USE ERA, SHEEPLE! ADAM DUNNS HAVE NO CONTROL OVER BALLS IN PLAY”

    Shouldn’t the plural be Adams Dunn?

    +6 Vote -1 Vote +1

  16. Hoser3565 says:

    #NotGraphsIsTerrible

    -41 Vote -1 Vote +1

  17. Max G says:

    One other thing Dunn shares with Ruth:

    Number of seasons (6) in which he finished with 40 to 49 HR.

    The Dunn vs. Ruth debate rages on….

    +12 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • SouthPawRyno says:

      We’ll see that on ESPN for about 20 seconds before it’s interrupted to report that Manziel and an unidentified WR missed a pass (is it a sign that he’ll be on the bench come week one?)

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  18. james wilson says:

    It took Canseco one batter to wreak his arm. Dunn is a stud. He cudda gone two. Probably should have.

    The Yankees would start Ruth one game a year in the dog days to sell tickets. The fact that he didn’t hurt himself is impressive.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • John C says:

      Why would he have hurt himself? Babe knew how to pitch, and there’s no reason he would have forgotten how just because he became a full-time position player. As I recall, he was 5-0 as a pitcher for the Yankees.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  19. Jonathon Paquin says:

    Heard you hired Drew Fairservice. You guys are brilliant, he’s a gem.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  20. dekockalypse says:

    This is the most entertaining fangraphs post I’ve ever read. Keep em coming, August.

    +14 Vote -1 Vote +1

  21. macheesmo3 says:

    I love deep analysis, I love number crunching, but dammit, this might be my favorite baseball article of the year! Good stuff!

    +14 Vote -1 Vote +1

  22. BaseballTwat says:

    This sucks.

    -31 Vote -1 Vote +1

  23. Shut up, bat sixth and get your arse in left says:

    The inverted U can likely be traced back to tossin the Pig skin. Twas a prospect at the U of Texas until Chris Sims showed up.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  24. AA says:

    Looks like the Blue Jays have their eyes on another ace!

    Come on waiver wire!

    +6 Vote -1 Vote +1

  25. jim fetterolf says:

    I liked this piece, baseball is sometimes allowed still to be a fun game for kids.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  26. Josh says:

    The man is also an actor in an Oscar-winning film (Dallas Buyer’s Club) and is looking to become his own Magic Johnson-style brand.
    (http://sports.yahoo.com/news/how-adam-dunn-is-working-to-be-a-magic-johnson-level-entrepreneur-225547325.html)
    Is there anything Adam Dunn® can’t do?

    +9 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Tom House says:

      He obviously can’t throw a consistent slider.

      Which makes no sense, since he played quarterback for the University of Texas.

      +5 Vote -1 Vote +1

  27. Sivart says:

    “Then J.P. Arencibia fouled out to first base on the first pitch because of course he did.” -Quote of the year

    +14 Vote -1 Vote +1

  28. J.P. Ricciardi says:

    This is all well and good, but did you know that Adam Dunn doesn’t care about baseball?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  29. Bubba says:

    This post, and these comments. This is why baseball is the best.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  30. mike wants wins says:

    Great, great, great piece. Thanks!

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  31. i read this website too much says:

    Epic, epic #keepnotgraphs article.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  32. somethingsomethingKeepNotgraphs says:

    I love this article more then anything else.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  33. sdiaz says:

    If he had pitched against the Diamondbacks and flashed that nasty chin music that he did to Andrus, we all know Captain Kirk Gibson would be currently plotting his revenge.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  34. sdiaz says:

    Also this was amazing: “Then J.P. Arencibia fouled out to first base on the first pitch because of course he did.”

    Vote -1 Vote +1

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