Fitting an Average Adam Dunn into the White Sox Lineup

It’s not as bad as it was a month ago. Then the White Sox were 10-19 and were scoring just 3.9 runs per game, which put them near the bottom of the league in most respects. Since then they’ve gone 15-12 and have scored 4.22 runs per game. That mark is second in the division only to Detroit, and has the Sox inching back into contention. As you can imagine, the Sox have seen many improvements on offense, going from a .295 wOBA in April to a .329 wOBA in May. That includes an improvement from Adam Dunn, who in creased his wOBA from .271 to .299 in the month of May. But he’s still well below expectations. Considering his spot in the Sox lineup, he really is holding them back.

Dunn’s problems are easily diagnosed from a quick look at his stat sheet. His power is down, he’s dunking in fewer hits than normal (even for him), and he’s striking out far more than he has previously in his career. Things have gotten better in some respects, as his monthly splits indicate. During our What’s Wrong With series, Jesse Wolfersberger examined Dunn’s case and found little to be alarmed about. His history, combined with the lingering effects of an emergency appendectomy in early April, pointed to a recovery rather than a season in decline.

Yet in May he continued to disappoint. He produced a .187 ISO, an improvement over his mostly powerless April, but still not near his .267 career standard. He did experience the BABIP jump that Jesse predicted, to .288, which is close to his .295 career average. Yet his average jumped to only .198 in May, which is well below even his career average. Overall in May he hit just .198/.336/.385, with few signs of turning it around. In fact, after a 2 for 23 skid from May 20 to the 27th, Ozzie Guillen finally dropped Dunn from fifth in the batting order.

At the beginning of this month I was with Jesse in thinking that Dunn would completely rebound and start producing to his career norms. Even after an up-and-down May I expect a full recovery, at least in his rest-of-season numbers. While that will help the Sox dig out of their current hole, it can’t make up for the damage done. We can only wonder at what position the Sox would have been in, at this point, if they got the normal Adam Dunn.

The biggest factor, of course, is the lack of home run power. After hitting exactly 40 homers from 2005 through 2008, Dunn slipped to 38 homers in each of the last two seasons. We can easily chalk that up to Nationals Ballpark, which has a LHB HR Park Factor of 94 (via StatCorner). In Cincinnati the same Park Factor was 120, and in Chicago it’s 123. That is, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect another 40-homer season from Dunn. During his 40-homer years he hit one roughly once every 18 at-bats. Since his walk rate now is exactly his career walk rate, we can take his 166 at-bats and make a rough estimate of nine homers, or four more than he’s hit to this point. That’s also five more hits, which would bring his average up to .205. Since he’s about at his career doubles rate currently, let’s make up the difference in singles. That would give him seven more singles, leaving us with a line of .247/.374/.464.

Plugging his numbers into the Base Runs formula, we can see that he’s currently at 24.56 BR. Adding in those extra four homers and seven singles, that number goes up to 34.7, giving us a difference of about 10 runs. That’s convenient, because of our 10 runs equals one win axiom. If we take it one step further and plug those 10 runs into the White Sox pythagorean record, we get a .485 win percentage, or a record of 27-29 through 56 games. That’s a two-win improvement over their current standing, and, expectedly, a one-win improvement over their current pythagorean record.

The early season has been frustrating for the White Sox and Dunn. They knew what they were getting when they signed him. If you take any three-year period from Dunn’s breakout in 2004 through 2010 and you’ll see him in the top five for walk rate, strikeout rate, and home run totals. Yet this year he hasn’t lived up to expectations, and it has cost his team about a win, maybe two, in the standings. I still expect a great improvement as the season rolls on, and further expect him to help the Sox out of their hole and to a respectable finish. But the Sox will always have to look back to that slow start, for both him and the team, and wonder what if. That win can make a big difference by season’s end.



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Joe also writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues.


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moonraker
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moonraker
5 years 3 months ago

Fact: Jose Bautista eats Adam Dunn’s weight in mini wheats for breakfast.

James Lewis
Guest
James Lewis
5 years 3 months ago

So basically, if he was hitting better, his stats would be better, and the team would have better results?

I’m not really sure how useful it is in discussing what his season would look like if he had 5 extra home runs and 7 extra singles. Of course this added production would help the White Sox, but the same could be said about any player for any team. Fact of the matter is, he hasn’t performed at that level.

jaywrong
Member
jaywrong
5 years 3 months ago

i’m not sure how useful you are james.

douche mcgee
Guest
5 years 3 months ago

It was a lot more useful than yours.

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11
5 years 3 months ago

So basically, if he was hitting better, his stats would be better, and the team would have better results?

That’s basically what I took from the article.

If he was hitting more home runs, his ISO would be higher and he’d be earning more base runs … as well as, helping the White Sox win more games.

I don;t say that as a smart arse … but if you summarized the article, that’s basically what it says.

Dunn’s problems are easily diagnosed from a quick look at his stat sheet. His power is down, he’s dunking in fewer hits than normal (even for him), and he’s striking out far more than he has previously in his career.

From an advanced analysis standpoint, those aren’t the problems … those results are caused by the problem.

K-Rate, BABIP, and HR/FB are all tied together in regards to “seeing and hitting the ball well”.

I don;t know exactly why he’s striking it well, whether it’s a vision, timing/mechanics, selection thing … but I would like to see the ‘problem’ get fixed. As consistent as he has been throughout his career, there has to be something.

Donkey
Guest
5 years 3 months ago

Dunn was known to have 20/10 vision, as I recall.. so if his vision of something else has proven to be a fly in the proverbial Duointment, his lack of average Dunnian swattage, has cost the Chisox 1 win. I get it, and I guess that is kind of interesting.

I hate to see dreaded HR outputs when they slip to 38, even in a tougher_to_ding_’em park

Travis
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Travis
5 years 3 months ago

The usefulness is that HR/FB rate and BABIP are known to fluctuate significantly. Players generally regress to career rates (or league averages, depending on how you take it) for these categories. Thus, it is useful to look at what a luck neutral Adam Dunn would be this year, if his variable numbers looked like they did in the past.

Even more, it’s useful to know that a luck neutral Dunn still shows a decline in his skillset.

The nuance, it burns!

Dustin
Guest
5 years 3 months ago

I think 86 wins will win the central. Those 1-2 wins missed out from a slow start by Dunn and 1-2 wins from a slow start by Rios could cost them the division.

Drew
Guest
Drew
5 years 3 months ago

“Normal” Dunn is worth about 4-5 batting wins, while “normal” Rios is worth 2-3. So I think Rios’s relatively slow (hitting) start cost them quite a bit less.

Lewie Pollis
Member
5 years 3 months ago

Dunn has a 1.222 Power Factor for May. That’s better than what he did last year.

gonfalon
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gonfalon
5 years 3 months ago

Kudos to Joe for mentioning the appendectomy as a possible cause of Dunn’s slump so far this year

MikeS
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MikeS
5 years 3 months ago

Yeah. Just look what it did to Matt Holliday.

Sox2727
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Sox2727
5 years 3 months ago

Matt Holliday is also a more complete and better all around hitter. Just because Holliday bounced back from the appendectomy better than Dunn, doesn’t mean it didn’t have an effect on Dunn. Everyone’s body reacts differently, look at the difference in recovery time for concussions between players.

gonfalon
Guest
gonfalon
5 years 3 months ago

For the benefit of those who haven’t been paying attention, the previous Fangraphs article on Dunn (written by someone else) didn’t even mention the appendectomy, even though it has been widely reported that Dunn tried to come back too soon thereafter.

lailaihei
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lailaihei
5 years 3 months ago

Dunn’s HR/FB is way down. Is there any reason to think it will continue to be this way this season?

Antonio Banans
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Antonio Banans
5 years 3 months ago

I think Hawk Harrelson is to blame. That sad sack of shit will bring anything the White Sox do down. Maybe Dunn likes to catch a replay of the game but can’t watch it because of how awful Harrelson is.

Another explanation could be his age, or it could be that he’s actually on a good team. Pitchers pitch differently to good teams. If Dunn blasts a 600 foot home run when he plays for the reds or nats before when they weren’t good, it doesn’t matter. You’re up 6-1, 7th inning, you get a little careless. Now he’s on a good team in a competitive division, guys are probably pitching him more cautiously.

Sox2727
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Sox2727
5 years 3 months ago

Sounds like another bitter Cub fan who can’t help but talk about Hawk

steve-o
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steve-o
5 years 3 months ago

another sox fan obsessing over a cubs fan’s opinion :/

Sox27
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Sox27
5 years 3 months ago

steve-o…i think john danks said it best “you’re a f***ing clown”

Anon
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Anon
5 years 3 months ago

I’m not a Cubs fan and I think Hawk is an unprofessional homer.

Antonio Bananas
Guest
Antonio Bananas
5 years 3 months ago

Not at all actually, I live in Missouri, which means most people hate the Cubs around here. I’m a Braves fan and I love baseball. WGN is available to me, so anytime there’s a good ChiSox pitching matchup or a game I want to watch, I turn it on and Hawk Harrelson makes me turn it off. I’d rather listen to Adolf Hitler than him. He’s that bad.

Sox27
Guest
Sox27
5 years 3 months ago

Is he a homer without a doubt and does he bitch constantly about umpiring no question. To compare him with Hitler is obviously hyperbolic. Is he in the upper echelon of MLB announcers, I wouldn’t say so but I think the implication that he’s the worst announcer in the league is an overstatement.

I’ve said for years he’s in the early stages of Harry Caray syndrome, I give it another few years before all the Jack Daniels fully erodes his brain and he starts calling players the wrong name (amazing Steve Stone has officially gone full circle).

jpg
Guest
jpg
5 years 3 months ago

Maybe he’s suffering from “Pat Burrell” syndrome in that DHing and not playing the field has throw things out of whack for him. Burrell said playing DH ruined his routine and that he had a hard time staying mentally focused during the game. Personally I thought Burrell was basically done as a slugger while in Tampa and that he was using those excuses because he was either:

A. In denial
B. Full of shit (he was shot, he knew it, but needed to throw something at the wall figuring it might stick)

Then San Francisco picks him up and suddenly he’s mashing. Dunn made it clear he didn’t want to be a DH. Thanks to interleague play he got a chance to do it and probably hated it. The only reason Dunn signed with Chicago was because they made by far the most aggresive offer. In keeping tabs on Dunn and the other big names during the hot stove season, I got the feeling he had to be talked into signing there. We sometimes forget that these guys aren’t robots. Maybe he’s just miserable. Who the hell knows.

brendan
Guest
brendan
5 years 3 months ago

I was wondering also if DHing bothered him. I think there has been a demonstrated DH-penalty for players moving from the field to DH. nothing like Dunn’s power outage tho.

jrogers
Member
jrogers
5 years 3 months ago

re: the DH penalty… has this been noticed separately from the normal aging decline and the fact that guys move to DH as they get too old to field well?

pft
Guest
pft
5 years 3 months ago

Adam Dunn off to a bad start with a new team like Carl Crawford. His start reminds me of Papis in 2009 when he had an awful first 2 months and only 1 HR coming into June, and then led the AL in HR the rest of the way.

Me thinks the White Sox could win the division this year.

Of course, I like the White Sox chances a lot better if Ozzie gets the axe. Time for a change there. I bet the players would be so relieved they go on a tear. .

pft
Guest
pft
5 years 3 months ago

Also, Adam Dunn has a 797 OPS against RHP’ers, and 156 OPS against LHP’ers.

Robbie G.
Guest
Robbie G.
5 years 3 months ago

This is a rather obvious point but no one has made it yet. Dunn is also playing in the AL for the first time in his career, and the AL is considered to be quite a bit stronger than the NL.

Mr. wOBAto
Guest
Mr. wOBAto
5 years 3 months ago

Yeah it has done wonders for Carlos Pena

Anon
Guest
Anon
5 years 3 months ago

Is the pitching better in the AL, though?

Antonio Bananas
Guest
Antonio Bananas
5 years 3 months ago

The only people who consider it stronger are fans of the AL. The AL’s pitching is shit. Most “good” AL staffs would be middle of the pack in the NL, especially the AL Central. That’s not it. He’s older and he’s on a good team for the first time in forever. He’s being pitched to more carefully.

Sox27
Guest
Sox27
5 years 3 months ago

You also realize it’s easier to pitch in the NL since you only have to pitch to 8 actual hitters, and in some lineups 7?

PaulScarfo
Guest
PaulScarfo
5 years 3 months ago

“Since then they’ve gone 15-12 and have scored 4.22 runs per game. That mark is second in the division only to Detroit, and has the Sox inching back into contention”

* 4.22 rpg is “2nd in the division for May”, or the entire season? Confusing…

mike wants wins
Guest
mike wants wins
5 years 3 months ago

This is one of the more surprising performances of the year, for me. As a Twins’ fan, I was quiet bummed when he signed with the Sox.

lexomatic
Guest
lexomatic
5 years 3 months ago

Despite J.P. Ricciardi’s big mouth… was he right about Dunn?

Sox27
Guest
Sox27
5 years 3 months ago

No, look at his career numbers and Rcciardi’s “success” in Toronto.

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