Adam Dunn, Hall Of Famer?

In his post about Jason Heyward yesterday, Matthew Carruth referred to Adam Dunn as a “maybe” Hall-of-Famer. When I read that, I assumed Matthew had taken leave of his senses, or was making some kind of joke that I didn’t quite get. After all, Dunn has a career +27.7 WAR through age 30, and the established bubble for HOF players is currently about +60 WAR. It is highly unlikely that Dunn will be able to double his value in the second half of his career, especially given his skillset.

But, the more I thought about it, the more I realized Matthew was right – Adam Dunn very well may end up in Cooperstown if he can stay healthy.

Career HR totals are definitely one of the magic numbers that get voters attention. The guaranteed entry barrier used to be 500 before the offensive explosion of the 1990s. Only 25 guys in history have ever hit 500+ home runs, and almost all of them are or will be in the Hall of Fame. Now that non-superstars like Gary Sheffield and Rafael Palmeiro have joined the list, its exclusivity has been diminished, but it’s still the kind of number that will draw notice, especially for a guy who has never been linked to PEDs.

Well, Adam Dunn is only 149 home runs away from 500, and he’s averaged 35 HR per 600 PA in his career so far. Barring injury or a very early collapse of his skills, 500 homers seems like a very easy target for Dunn. That’s averaging just under 30 homers a year for the next five seasons, and the last time he hit fewer than 30 long balls in a year was 2003. His bat may begin to slow down, but he’s got enough power that he can lose some and still crank out that piece with relative ease.

Given just how bad defensively he was in the outfield, however, he’ll almost certainly be the worst player ever to reach that milestone. Even with the power, his offensive production has always been just good, not great, and he’s one of the worst defenders and baserunners of his generation. In terms of actual value, there’s almost no way Dunn will deserve to go into the Hall, but I’m not sure that will matter.

If he hits 500 homers, and is presumed to have done so while “clean”, there will be support for his candidacy, especially if he’s going up against other guys who have tested positive or been linked to steroids. If he gets anywhere near 600 and keeps away from scandal, he’s a mortal lock, and it’s not impossible to see Dunn launching 250 homers over the remainder of his career.

So, I have to conclude that Matthew is right – Adam Dunn is a “maybe” Hall of Famer. If he stays healthy for the next 5 to 10 years, he’s got a pretty decent chance at putting up the kinds of numbers that voters will take notice of. He won’t deserve to go in based on total value, but the sexy numbers just may be enough. He does the things that voters like, and the aspects where he fails, there is little emphasis. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but there’s a decent chance that my kids might walk past Dunn’s plaque in Cooperstown some day.

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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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Ah, Dave, but what of the increasing statistical awareness among the BBWAA? By the time Dunn’s made his traditional hall of fame case, there may not be enough writers voting along traditional lines.


You forgot about Albert Pujols. He also had 5 40+ homer seasons in his 20s.