Key Stats: At the age of 31, Adam Dunn’s skills seemed to have disappeared last season. It’s not often that a player’s skills just suddenly erode at the age of 31 – let alone a player that had the run of consistency that Dunn had from 2004 through 2010. Some numbers that make it harder to write Dunn off include that his BABIP was almost 90 points lower last year than it was in 2010 and over 50 points off of his career rate. His line drive rate last year was 20% - which was just ahead of his career line drive rate. And finally his home run to fly ball rate was 9.6% and had been double that every year of his career since 2003.
Skeptics Say: Swing and a pop up! Swing and a miss! There are numbers that make it harder to trust Dunn of course too.
He struck out in 36% of his plate appearances. Dunn has never been a model citizen when it comes to helping reduce the stress on an umpire’s larynx, but this was awful even by his own standards. That was worst in the big leagues last year by a large margin. Obviously he has to make an effort to change this, but it won’t be easy. Dunn actually increased his BB:K ratio from the prior season and ended up seeing the same percentage of balls to total pitches he did a season ago (41%). While it was hard to see him falling off the map at age 31, at the same time it’s not easy to teach an old dog new tricks either.
He also hit a ton of pop ups to the infield last year relative to the rest of his career. That would certainly go a long way in explaining the HR:FB and BABIP numbers.
One other glaring number in Dunn’s splits is what he did against lefties. He had just one extra base hit in 94 at-bats against southpaws. For his career, his OPS against lefties has always been significantly lower, but not enough to warrant a loss of playing time. That happened last year, and unless Dunn can prove differently, will need to happen again in 2012.
Peer Comparison: I thought it was a little harsh that Tristan Cockcroft would leave Dunn off of his top 250 overall rankings and put Todd Helton in the top 250 rankings. Here’s a look at why I feel Dunn holds the advantage over Helton:
Yahoo Ranking in 2011: Helton; 184 vs. Dunn; 1155
Yahoo Ranking in 2010: Helton; 744 vs. Dunn; 57
Yahoo Ranking in 2009: Helton; 98 vs. Dunn: 76
Yahoo Ranking in 2008: Helton was injured half the season vs. Dunn: 102
Age on Opening Day: Helton; 38 vs. Dunn; 32
If it’s a mixed league, this decision is a no-brainer. At this point in the draft, it’s all about upside and Dunn has the potential to be next year’s Lance Berkman. Helton does not.
Even if it’s a deeper league, I think Dunn is a less risky player. Finding a player that has a clean seven great years in a row is next to impossible. There is almost always one bad apple in the mix. Helton has potential injury and overall age concerns.
Lineup Outlook: Last year was Dunn’s first in the American League, but that’s not an excuse. There is too much shuffling taking place in the game today for that to be “the reason.” Playing DH had nothing to do with his problems either – his numbers were actually worse in the 115 at-bats he had at first base. The good news for Dunn is that the management around him will make it seem like 2012 will be a whole new start. Ozzie Guillen and his media mood swings are in Miami and the team has hired Jeff Manto as the new batting coach. Manto said he will look into ways to help Dunn, Alex Rios, and Gordon Beckham mentally at the plate. Getting all three players to bounce back would also be huge for Manto’s own credentials.
A Blogger’s Take: Adam Dunn cannot be done yet. He's only turning 32 next week, not 38. Even if there is a DH penalty -- it is as difficult as pinch-hitting, and as much as 10% more difficult -- he should be able to manage 90% of the old Adam Dunn minus a couple years of aging. I do think he could manage a .230/.340/.450+ season, which might mean 30+ homers again... as long as he starts the season out okay and keeps his job. Probably still only an OBP league sleeper because of the average though. – Eno Sarris, Rotographs
Projection: Were Dunn’s problems physical last year? Were they mental? Probably a combination of both and probably one led to the other. That’s baseball though. One moment you're in a slump and the next thing you know (as Dan Uggla’s season proved) you can do no wrong. Dunn has to be off the board at this time in the draft.
78 R 25 HR 74 RBI 1 SB .240 AVG .815 OPS in 540 plate appearances