Daily Graphing – Adam Dunn

Adam Dunn can mash and we all know his power and walks dwarf the negatives associated with his massive strikeout totals. Sure, his career batting average is .248, but very few can match his walk rate (17%) or isolated power (.274). With Cincinnati making a bid to take over Houston‘s role as runner-up to St. Louis, he could be involved in an MVP discussion for the first time. Does he have what it takes to put up a career year and bring joy to Redsville?

His strikeout rate has actually increased in 2006 — striking out in almost 36% of his at-bats. Given 550 at-bats, he’s on pace for 198 strikeouts. Sure looks like 2005 was an aberration in his “growth” curve, no?

Dunn's Seasonal K%
That huge strikeout total is a harbinger of a down year, right? Nope — all other signs point to a career year. Dunn is walking more often (21% of PAs), he’s hitting fewer groundballs (32%), more line-drives (22%), and a lot fewer infield flies (6% down from last year’s 14%). Even if you’re worried about the strikeouts, feel confident that the increased walks will result in a career best walk-to-strikeout ratio (BB/K).

Dunn's Seasonal BB/K
Dunn‘s batting average is right at his career mark, but he’s sitting with a career high in isolated power (ISO). His 12 HRs in 32 games put him on-pace for over 60 HRs. With full awareness of the dangers of the on-pace game, could this be the year that Babe Ruth has two of his historical marks surpassed in the same season?

Dunn's Seasonal ISO
One of the favorite arguments of the sabermetric crowd is to match up a low-average, high-OBP Dunn-type with a player of the opposite skill set. It’s a difficult task to find a slugging first-basemen that doesn’t take his fair share of walks, but why not go with David Ortiz? He’s hit over .300 the past two years and owns a .281 career average. Comparing our two heroes, we can see that Dunn holds his own in the OBP battle despite giving up lots of ground in the average department.

Ortiz retains a slight edge in runs created per game due to his extra power, but it’s very interesting to compare Dunn’s and Ortiz‘s runs-created-per-game (RC/G) by age. They have almost the same performance curve, with Dunn enjoying a two runs per game advantage in almost every season. I think Dunn‘s inability to hit for average will prevent him from producing 11 runs per game at age 30 (Ortiz’s peak), but if these guys were both 25 this season, who would you rather have? Heck, with Dunn’s advantage in the youth department, who would you rather have right now?


Could a player that flirts with the season record for strikeouts also win an MVP? Just having Adam Dunn in the discussion would set off another round of old-school versus sabr-geek debate, and debate can only help the intelligent. If I’m wearing my Nostradamus hat, Dunn hits 52 HRs, strikes out 188 times, finishes second to Albert Pujols in the MVP race, and the Reds fall short of the playoffs once somebody reminds their starters that they aren’t actually Cy Young candidates.

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Sky Kalkman is a writer for Fan Graphs. You can email him at skyking162@gmail.com or visit his baseball blog. Sky's favorite color is orange.

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10 years 1 month ago

Great read.

Isn’t Dunn a notoriously fast starter though? April has historically been one of his stronger months the last 3 seasons, which makes me wonder if Dunn is showing signs of a breakout or just coming into the season as usual above his norm.

Although the graphs seem to indicate a gradual incline in .OBP and RC/G, I’m hesitant to think that there will be a drastic increase this year that would put him over the top of a player like Pujols.

10 years 1 month ago

Sky – best obscure reference I’ve heard in months. Love your website, by the way.