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Render unto Adam Dunn What is Adam Dunn’s

May 13, 2012

Smash?

I offer this to praise Adam Dunn, not to bury him. Which seems weird, because the thing  that spurred me to write this was an anti-record that he didn’t break. On Friday, May 11th, Dunn had the opportunity to tie the major league record for most consecutive games with a strikeout. He was at 36, and was one game shy of the record set by pitcher Bill Stoneman from 1971-72. But Dunn instead went 2-for-2 with a double, homer, and two walks. Boo.

Yes, boo. Nobody’s paying attention to Dunn this year. Hell, with the exception of last season, it seems like nobody pays attention to Dunn. And that’s kind of sad. He’s having a great year so far. OBP just shy of .400, SLG over .600. He’s already matched his homer total from last year, with 11 through Saturday’s game.

They paid attention last year. Because Dunn had an atrocious, repulsive, asshat 2011. Just terrible. I imagine if I were a White Sox fan, and I watched him play day after day, batting .159 for the year, with a slugging percentage of .277 — worst in the American League for players with 400 or more at-bats — I would break all of my fingers, solely to keep myself from jamming them down my throat and throwing up.However. Dunn walked 75 times last year. He finished 15th in the league in walks and THIRD in the league in walks per plate appearance (.151). Despite the fact that he had the lowest batting average of any ALer with 400 at-bats, his walk rate actually rose 3.2% from 2010.

That’s insane. The guy who was just the worst when trying to swing at the ball last year walked more than all but 14 other players in the AL. And that was his third-lowest walk rate of his career.

Which is to say that Dunn continues to be on track for very strange career totals. He’s never been one of the best players in the league. This is partly because one would have better luck running out a hamburger with feet to left field (or, sadly, even first base) rather than Dunn. But even without considering his sad clown inabilities on the grass, he’s never been one of the top hitters in his league. He’s been close to it, sure, with win probability added and adjusted batting wins, but no one has ever thought of him as one of the best players in the game. He’s made one All-Star Game. Highest he’s ever finished in MVP voting is 21st in 2010.

But he’s putting up legendary numbers. With 27 walks (second in the AL) so far this year, Dunn’s at 1,092 total. A conservative estimate of 70 more this season will push him past Craig Biggio into 64 all time (assuming Lance Berkman draws at least eight more between now and October). Dunn is 32 years old. Sure, he’s an old 32 and his skills don’t have the same longevity as the more agile, spry players. But if we assume he plays through his age 36 year, Dunn will hit some rarified territory on the all-time walks list.

I won’t rehash everything I wrote here two years ago, because the same still applies. 2010 did indeed end up being his worst bases-on-balls year. Albert Pujols has actually fallen a bit in his lagging behind Dunn’s walk total. Mark Reynolds, who’s about to break the 1,000 strikeout mark, is quickly spiraling towards bench player status (and he’s on the DL right now). Dunn is 742 strikeouts away from Reggie Jackson. Alex Rodriguez, four years older than Dunn, is 84 Ks in front of him; but Dunn already has 20 more Ks this season than A-Rod.

I had forecast that Dunn would be top 25 in walks. I think we can revise that and say top 20. (This looks to be the last season for Bobby Abreu, Chipper Jones, Jason Giambi; Todd Helton has maybe two more seasons in him – Dunn will pass all these folk). I’d forecast 500 as an outside shot for Dunn; this is a bit more outside now after his somewhat wasted 2011. That would be 124 more than he has right now, certainly a tough climb. But I would imagine 475 is a fairly legit forecast. That would still put him in the top 30.

Dave Cameron wrote this about Dunn’s chances for the Hall of Fame on FanGraphs two years ago. Completely in the weird realm of possibilities. Here are a list of players in the top 30 of walks, strikeouts, and homers:

Jim Thome

Harmon Killebrew

Mickey Mantle

Reggie Jackson* (he’s 31st in walks)

Thome, who will probably bow out of the game less than 100 strikeouts away from breaking Reggie’s mark, has a lifetime batting average of .277. Dunn has never hit that high in a single season. Thome will join the other three in the Hall, easily, and probably, based on his “nicest guy in baseball” reputation, on the first ballot. The Big Donkey, on the other hand, is nowhere near consideration, according to Black Ink / Gray Ink / Hall of Fame Monitor numbers on Baseball-Reference.

But I, for one, am very, very interested to see Dunn’s numbers at the end of 2018, when he’s hanging up his spikes for the last time.

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