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Dunn To The White Sox

Adam Dunn and the White Sox seemed like a fit since day one. Kenny Williams wanted a lefty run producer, and Dunn wanted a lot of years and a lot of money. It was a match made in hot stove heaven, and you can insert a generic “Dunn deal” pun here. Four years and $56M took care of things, and now one of the game’s premier power hitters joins a team that sorely needed a left-handed thumper.

Besides homers, Dunn’s calling card is his consistency. He’s hit exactly 38 homers in each of the last two years and exactly 40 in each of the four seasons before that, and his ISO has been at or above the .260 mark for most of his career. As of this writing, the 19 of you that have submitted Fan Projections foresee a typical .379 wOBA from Dunn, almost identical to his 2010 output. The counting stat increases are moderate (+3 HR, +13 R, +15 RBI), presumably from the assumed park effect.

During Dunn’s two seasons in Washington, Nationals Park was almost exactly neutral in terms of total offense and homeruns, less than a percent-and-a-half off the league average according to ESPN’s park factors. U.S. Cellular Field, meanwhile, has been one of the game’s most prolific offensive environments, inflating total offense and homers by 9.85% and 36.9%, respectively, during those last two years. It’s a small sample of course, but park factors don’t have too much of an impact on hitters like Dunn, who can hit the ball out of any park anyway. He might pick up two or three extra big flies, maybe five, but I wouldn’t expect him to flirt with 50 all of a sudden.

I suppose the real issue with Dunn is his increasingly declining walk rate. After topping out at 18.7 BB% in 2008, he “dropped off” to 17.4% in 2009 and then to 11.9% in 2010, the worse mark in his career. Unsurprisingly, Dunn swung at more and more pitches out of the strike zone during that time, topping out at a career high 28.5%. That combined with a career worst 13.8% swing-and-miss rate can lead to a lot of pitcher’s counts, a problem for any batter. It could just be a fluke, because his walk rate did improve in the second half of this season…

Dunn will always have value in any league as long as he keeps hitting homers, but his stock in OBP leagues may be dropping ever so slightly. The sample isn’t big enough to say anything definitive going forward, but it’s something to keep an eye on. Otherwise, the rest of the White Sox lineup is relatively unchanged, it’s the same group that posted the 11th best OBP (.332) in the game last year (Washington was 22nd at .318). I’d expect Paul Konerko (and Omar Vizquel) to regress some, but overall Dunn should see more RBI and run scoring opportunities on Chicago’s south side than he did in the nation’s capital.

With 1B and OF eligibility, I’ve always liked Dunn for his flexibility and take-it-to-the-bank ~40 homers, though I wouldn’t adjust my draft strategy and target him earlier than usual just because of the shift in ballparks. There should be some AL-NL transition issues, which might just cancel out the ballpark effect. For all intents and purpose, I’d assume Dunn was the same guy going forward and not expect any more or any less out of him in 2011.