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Eight Thoughts on Adam Dunn

Posted By Matt Klaassen On July 16, 2010 @ 4:00 pm In Daily Graphings | 27 Comments

After consulting the masses via Twitter, today I am going to share eight (very) loosely related thoughts regarding Adam Dunn:

1. Tired Dunn Talking Point A: Despite strikeout numbers that make traditionalists cringe, Adam Dunn is an outstanding hitter, sporting a .398 wOBA since 2008.

2. Tired Dunn Talking Point B: Despite being a tremendous hitter, Dunn’s defense both in the outfield and at first base, according to defensive metrics as well as scouting reports, is so dreadful that it seriously compromises his overall value, particularly in the NL where he cannot be DHed.

3. According to WAR, Dunn might be on the way to having his the best season ever, having compiled three Wins Above Replacement already. Of course, there’s still plenty of season to go, and we’re too smart to fall for “on pace” claims, right?

4. From 2004 through 2008 Adam Dunn hit 40 or more home runs every season, and hit exactly 40 each season from 2005-2008. He hit 38 last season. Yet Dunn has never participated in the Home Run Derby. While this is probably due to the way that invitations are distributed, isn’t it more than a bit weird that Brandon Inge has been in the Home Run Derby and Adam Dunn hasn’t?

5. Dunn has had classic “old player skills” from almost the very beginning of his major league career: defensive limitations, lack of speed, low batting average, great power, high strikeout rate, high walk rate, etc. But at 30, the offensive decline the older player skills theory would have us expect has, shall we say, remained “well-hidden” in Dunn’s case:

This doesn’t refute the general notion of old player skills. Nor does it mean that Dunn should not be expected to decline soon (one should expect that from most in their 30s). It is simply interesting.

6. Curiously enough, Dunn seems to be “reneging” a bit on his geezer skills status this season: his current .288 batting average is higher than it has ever been over a full season. While his strikeouts are as frequent as ever, his 2010 walk rate of 10.9% is by far the worst of his career. Bizarrely enough, the relatively high batting average has occurred in a season that Dunn’s swings are making less contact (69.6% contact rate) and he is swinging at more pitches outside of the zone than ever before (28.8% O-Swing versus 17.8% career). If I didn’t know better, I’d be tempted to think that loosening up his plate discipline has enabled Dunn to find a Fountain of Youth.

7. Despite Dunn’s efforts, Ryan Zimmerman‘s all-around excellence, and the coronation of Stephen Strasburg, the Nationals are out of it. Trading Dunn, who is a free agent (likely Type A) after the season, is the logical choice. While there have been rumors of mutual interest between Dunn and the Nationals regarding a multi-year extension, those are dying down, fortunately for Nationals fans. While Dunn has aged gracefully so far (at least at the plate), given that the team is (optimistically) at least two years away from contending, a big long-term deal for any should-be DH in his early 30s, old player skills or not, is usually a bad idea, especially for an NL team.

8. ZiPS Rest-of-Season projections see Dunn as about a +18 hitter over the remainder of the season; let’s call him 2 WAR overall for the rest of 2010. He is probably owed between five and six million dollars for the rest of his contract, so unless Washington eats a substantial portion of his contract, there’s probably only three million dollars worth of projected surplus here — not bad, but probably not worth much more than a decent “C” prospect or two with some upside. However, because Dunn will likely be a Type A free agent in the offseason, draft pick compensation for the team offering him arbitration (assuming he turns it down) bumps the total projected surplus up to around nine million dollars, which means “B” prospects (plus filler) should definitely be in play.


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