Donkey’s Darkest Week

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And you know if I strikeout, okay, you know whatever, but if there are guys, runners in scoring position, things like that and you strikeout too, that to me, that’s bad. – Adam Dunn

In all of baseball, there is no man more distinctively and consistently himself than Adam Dunn. In an uncertain world, he is a treasure. Adam Dunn does three things well; no more, no less. Because none of them requires any effort from the opposing defense, Adam Dunn is a gentleman, as well as a treasure. But although he does three things well, he only does one of these things with true greatness, and that is striking out. If nothing else, history will remember this about this man: Adam Dunn struck out.

At a spry 33 years old, Dunn is fourth on the career strikeouts list, with barely 500 K’s — that is, three modest seasons — to go to catch all-time leader Reggie Jackson. Of the 13 greatest strikeout years in the history of the game, Dunn owns four, capped by his 2012 masterpiece that featured the highest strikeout rate, over at least 600 PA’s, of all time. He is the definitive, the inimitable master of the strikeout. In Mark Reynolds he has a worthy young rival, but because Dunn swings less and sees more pitches, his strikeouts have a complexity, a narrative, that Reynolds’ cannot match. He is an artist.

Adam Dunn strikes out more than once a game, on average, and he is capable of striking out for many, many games in a row. Once he struck out for 36 games in a row, which is a record. For fans of the Reds, Nationals, and White Sox over the past twelve years, Adam Dunn’s strikeouts have been a deeply comforting part of the daily routine. But statistics dictate that there will be games when Dunn does not strike out at all. Very occasionally, there are multiple such games in a row. On five separate occasions, Dunn has failed to strike out for four consecutive games — most recently, and notably, in August of 2009, during a four-game series against his old teammates in Cincinnati.

And then there was this. For one, inexplicable outlier of a week, in the dog days of aught-five, Adam Dunn did something that defies all statistics. For seven full games — really, the better part of nine — Dunn could not manage a single, solitary K. I have stared at these play logs for longer than I’d care to admit, turning them backwards, forwards, upside down, in a vain effort to comprehend their meaning. I have scoured the news archives for evidence of some injury, some distraction, some cosmic misalignment, something that would help to incorporate this event into my desperately strained worldview. There is nothing. Some nuts cannot be cracked.

Dunn struck out looking on August 24th, in the second inning, against the Nationals’ John Patterson. That was the last time he would strike out for an astounding 37 plate appearances, during which he logged six walks (one intentional), one hit-by-pitch, fourteen flyouts, six groundouts, three foulouts, one fielder’s choice, one single, four doubles, and one home run, for a triple-slash of .200/.351/.433. This was, by any measure, a poor stretch for Dunn. (Compare his season line of .247/.387/.540, or his career line of .238/.368/.497.) His failure to strike out cannot be chalked up to an unlucky sequence of pitchers. Sure, he had four PA’s against Livan Hernandez, to say nothing of Josh Fogg or Mark Redman. But he also faced Andy Pettitte, Roy Oswalt, and the aforementioned Patterson, who ranked twelfth among all starters in K/9; and, most shockingly, he had the golden opportunity of two appearances against Michael Gonzalez (10.44 K/9) and two against Brad Lidge (13.12). Not until LOOGY John Foster was brought in specifically to face him, in the seventh inning on September the second, did Dunn finally break through. It was not mentioned in the papers the following day, and in fact, the entire streak seems to have gone completely unnoticed.

Was Dunn’s great drought the result of something intentional? Was he trying something new? Was it simply a staggering accumulation of chance? We will probably never know. What we do know is that Adam Dunn, for one long, dark week, failed utterly and completely to do that which he does best. Unsurprisingly, there were consequences, and they were not good ones. Dunn’s penchant for strikeouts is not what most would deem a “positive” attribute. But it is a vital part of being Adam Dunn. Let that be a lesson.

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6 Responses to “Donkey’s Darkest Week”

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  1. Joe says:

    I just picked this cat up off waivers in an OBP league. Never paid much attention before, but he is an OBP MONSTER.

    He has been a 40 HR, 100 RBI and .350 OBP-guy 8 of the last 9 years (every year except 2011).

    The question: Anyone know what happened to him in 2011? Has consensus been reached?

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  2. Resolution says:

    Adam Dunn’s darkest week is still lighter than most people’s brightest periods. This is due to the fact that during most people’s brightest periods they still cannot lay claim to being ‘Adam Dunn’.

    Shine bright like a Diamond, Adam – not that you would be capable of anything else.

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    • Oh, Beepy. says:

      Adam Dunn does not shine bright like a diamond; Adam Dunn shines bright like an Adam Dunn. You have learned nothing.

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      • Resolution says:

        You are fully correct. As a demonstration that I have learned and as a tacit apology for my grave mistake, I submit the following:

        Diamonds shine bright like Adam Dunn, particularly when the Diamond in question is Adam Dunn, who himself is a gem of the game on and off the diamond.

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  3. steex says:

    I suspect Dunn’s strikeouts were a more comforting part of the daily routine of Reds and Nationals fans than they currently are to White Sox fans. He’s gone through too many periods of nearly being a one true outcome player on the South Side, and you just can’t appreciate something which becomes so predictable.

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  4. Table says:

    This is awesome

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