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Don't Disrespect Dunn
by Keith Glab, BaseballEvolution.com
September 15, 2006

I'm here to take issue with Asher's sentiment that Adam Dunn is not a very good player.  This is interesting to hear from someone who has recently lauded Jimmy Rollins as one of the best young hitters in the game.

The first mistake that people usually make in evaluating Adam Dunn is missing his age.  Even though this is his sixth year in the majors, Adam Dunn does not turn 27 until November.  In fact, he's nearly a full year younger than Rollins is.

The mistake that Asher makes is to ignore age completely and just look at the 2006 season in a bubble, as though that tells us all that we need to know about a player.  I don't think that Andre Dawson, Asher's favorite player, would like to have his quality of play gauged solely by his 1984 season, for example.  But this is essentially what Asher does when he lists several players who are currently having a better season than Dunn.

Here is how some of the players mentioned in Asher's article compare to Dunn in terms of their accomplishments before age 27 (thanks, Day by Day Database!)

Player AB R HR RBI SB/CS AVG OBP SLG OPS
Dunn* 2780 514 198 465 47/16 .247 .381 .518 .899
Delgado 2040 325 122 393 5/4 .263 .356 .516 .872
Thome 2051 402 129 375 15/11 .289 .410 .546 .956
Giles 507 94 23 91 16/3 .294 .387 .503 .890
Beltran 2927 515 115 482 156/20 .288 .353 .484 .837
Soriano 1328 212 60 179 86/28 .281 .314 .490 .804
Thomas 2360 479 148 505 14/11 .326 .452 .591 1.043
Giambi 1235 177 46 185 2/3 .287 .359 .474 .833
C Lee 2373 365 101 383 42/18 .279 .333 .471 .804

*Still a few weeks of games until age 27

While Dunn doesn't appear headed for a career comparable to Frank Thomas' or Jim Thome's, he looks like he's as good or better than everyone else on this list.  And this list isn't bad company.

One thing to note from this list is that Adam Dunn is not merely good at hitting home runs; he's one of the best ever.  He hits dingers about once every 14 at bats.  To compare Dunn to a very similar historical figure, Reggie Jackson hit one every 17.5 at bats.  That's a huge difference, even when you factor in era.

Another thing we forget about Adam Dunn is that the guy can steal a base.  When we see a giant of a man bumbling around in left field, we don't expect that he can do anything athletic.  But to call Dunn a one or even two-dimensional player is erroneous.  The guy has speed, you just rarely see it during his walks and home runs.

Let's move on to Asher's second big mistake: claiming that Dunn isn't getting any better.  Well, he is actually getting significantly better, almost frighteningly better, but we do need to dig a bit to see it.

For those of you who don't know, JC Bradbury of The Hardball Times developed a statistic called Predicted OPS (or PrOPS).  It uses batted ball type data and other ratios (including strikeout rate) to remove as much luck from a player's OPS as possible.  As it turns out, a player's PrOPS from one year correlates better with his OPS the next year than OPS itself does.  In fact, for every 10 points of deviation between a player's OPS and PrOPS, we can expect a corresponding rise or fall in the player's OPS the next year of 8 points.

This year, Dunn is missing his PrOPS by 140 points, the most in baseball.  It appears as though he's hitting into a lot of "hang with 'em's."

So if we plug that into our formula, we can expect Dunn's OPS next season to be more like 1.000 (.890 + 140/1.25).   The other interesting thing we see from Bradbury's analysis is that Dunn's PrAVG is around .300.  We appear to be adding yet another dimension to this supposedly one-dimensional player.

So while Asher says that Adam Dunn isn't a good baseball player, I say that he's better than Carlos Delgado, whom Asher has ranked as the 123rd best player of all time for some reason.  While Asher says that Dunn isn't improving, I say that if the Reds commit to hitting him second in the lineup, he's going to put up MVP numbers next year.  And while Asher says that it's way to early to predict such things, I believe Dunn has a reasonable chance of surpassing Hank Aaron's career home run total not long after Albert Pujols does it.

 


Disagree with something? Got something to add? Wanna bring up something totally new? Keith Glab resides in Chicago, Illinois, and can be reached at keith@baseballevolution.com.




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