Through Both Lenses: Adam Dunn’s Rare Company

Posted: July 6, 2012 by Mauricio Rubio Jr. in Sports
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

by: Mauricio Rubio Jr.
email: mr@99sportsproblems.com
twitter: @MRubio52

Major League Baseball is well over 100 years old, in fact, she’s well into her 130’s right now. There are differing accounts on when baseball was born. Some point to the foundation of the first “pro” team in 1869 as the official birth-date of MLB. Others look at April 22, 1876 as the date the league drew it’s first breath as the Chicago White Stockings (now the Chicago Cubs) played the Boston Red Stockings (now the Atlanta Braves) in a game that resembles 12″ softball more than the modern game of baseball.

Whatever date you decide to use, understand that the written history of early baseball is as hard to decipher as prehistoric cave paintings, or the Egyptian Hieroglyphics without the Rosetta Stone. There are numbers lost to history thanks to shoddy bookkeeping and the early errors of the men and women keeping score. There are several examples of lost stats throughout early baseball. We’ll never know just how great Ty Cobb was at stealing bases thanks to them not tracking Caught Stealings for the first half of his career.

What we have kept track of since the early stages of the game are the basic, rudimentary stats that Henry Chadwick bestowed upon us. Chadwick was a blessing and a curse, if you ask some in the SABR community, he is more the latter than the former. Since Chadwick laid out the first box score, we’ve tracked batting average and home runs pretty well throughout history.

We aren’t here to discuss Chadwick’s follies however, we’re here because Adam Dunn is about to join a club that has 9 members. To put that into context, there have been 20 pitchers who have thrown a perfect game in baseball history, doubling up this perhaps infamous club (As an aside, more people have orbited the moon than pitched a perfect game).

So what is this club that Adam Dunn is in? Well, if he plays the rest of the year at this pace he will be the 10th player in baseball history to have 30 HR’s and an average under .230. As a matter of fact, he is one big slump away from having the lowest batting average of any player with over 30 HR’s.

Dunn, as of writing, is sitting on 25 HR’s and a .215 avg. This has happened 10 times in baseball history. The Hawk did it in 1969 for the Boston Red Sox and the Cleveland Indians. This is odd because Harrelson actually hit for a pretty good average with power in ’68, but lost the average in ’69 after the mound was lowered, giving hitters the advantage again.

Kingman, Dunn’s spiritual baseball fore bearer, did it twice. First in ’82 with the Mets, then again in his final year in the bigs with Oakland in ’86. Dunn is a better player than Kingman ever was, but there is a lot of Kong in the Donkey. Kingman, like Dunn, was a low average slugger who struck out a ton. He didn’t draw a lot of walks which distinguishes the two in their approach.

Kong bookends a series of this statistical occurrence, which happened every year from 82 to 86. Tony Armas hit .218 with 36 HR’s in 1983. Armas is odd in that he was a power hitter who’s homer to walk ratio was dangerously close to being inverted, meaning that he almost hit more HR’s than he drew walks in his career. Even Alfonso Soriano has the dignity to keep that chasm a bit wider.

Ron Kittle capitalized on a ROY season by hitting .215 with 32 HR’s in 1984. There are 3 distinct White Sox connections on this list with the possibility of a fourth. I find that funny.

Gorman Thomas is another statistical fore father of Dunn’s, in ’85 he also hit .215 with 32 HR’s, but he added 84 BB’s to the mix. He is one of the original TTO guys. Gorman Thomas had (and still has) a legendary mustache. I mean, the damn thing screamed 70’s. It truly was a hall of fame caliber facial hair styling, he and Al Hrabowsky need their own wing in the facial hair hall of fame. I could go on about this…but I won’t.

We covered Kingman’s 86 season. As the steroid era began, averages jumped. The ball was juiced, the players were juiced, everything was juiced. All the gaudy stats of that era are inflated in some manner. You get some guys that get close to this cut-off, but no player pulls off the feat until 2004.

Jose Valentin brought it back retro style as he sported a .216 AVG with exactly 30 HR’s. That was his last year of relevance in baseball. Now, there are two things you can credit for Valentin’s power surge in Chicago: 1. Comiskuellar 2. Roids. Lots and lots of roids. He was a small shortstop that turned into a mini hulk that hit HR’s.

I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’ (and for the record, I don’t care if he did).

There is a new wave of player that is bringing this back into style. Carlos Pena kind of started it in 2009. Oddly enough, that’s the best player season on the list. We’ve reached a crossroads of baseball understanding. There are a few ways to treat the new statistical revolution that has “taken over” baseball. You can go overboard with it, you can go overboard against it, or you can use it to augment your own baseball knowledge. We’ve crossed a point where we care less and less about strikeouts, and people are flipping their shit over it.

It’s a fad. Baseball goes through phases where certain things are valued more than others. All throughout the 50’s nobody stole bases, so catchers with good arms were no longer a priority. Catchers that could hit became important. Yogi Berra was a great hitter, but not the best defensive catcher. He would have been a 3B/LF in the 80’s. Anyway, back to the 50’s, you have a league full of noodle arms because no one needs to throw runners out anymore, and all it takes is one jackass to show up a decade later and steal 100 bases before the league goes back to looking for catchers that can throw, and then we get Johnny Bench in the very next decade. Baseball is going through a phase, at some point the K will be a stigma again.

Speaking of which, Mark Reynolds was doing his very best to test the limits of the K theory in both 2010 and 2011. Reynolds has the lowest BA on this list, but in that year he still managed to draw 83 walks, to illustrate just how much the game has changed. Reynolds is an extreme, he is almost the exact inverse of a player like Tony Campana. He can only swing one way, and it’s betrayed him thus far in 2012. If anything, his failure, and the struggles of Drew Stubbs should indicate that a change is coming. Pitchers are groomed to chase the strikeout now, it’s the measuring tool for prospects these days. For 2 decades players were chasing home runs at the expense of consistent contact. In the 90’s, K rates soared, but the ERA’s rose too. In the advent of the steroid era, however, we are quickly seeing the results of a lost gain. Pitchers are in control now as offense is down across the board, but I digress.

In summation, 5 HR’s is what separates Dunn from this list. There’s no way he climbs over .230. He’s looked lost at the plate over the past few weeks, but perhaps that’s just what it looks like when he slumps. Dunn does three things, he walks (leads the league), he strikes out (ditto), and he hits some monster HR’s (currently 3rd in that department). This is the player the White Sox paid for, nothing more, nothing less.

Mythbusters, Chicago Sports Style

I’ve noticed a rather alarming trend with Chicago sports fans. Even though the information is readily available to disprove certain Chicago myths all Snopes style, people still cling to these notions. I don’t know why that is. I guess it is easy to simply say the Cubs are being cheap instead of digging a bit deeper and finding out the truth of what their plan is. Here are some I’ve run into over the past month. Most of them multiple times.

  • Ricketts is cheap! He coulda had Prince and Pujols here if he wanted to! The Chicago Cubs told you from the start that they won’t be buying free agents until it’s time to compete. This has been reexplained ad naseum and is becoming a bit of a Quixotic quest to try to lay out for people.
  • Building troo da draft is stupid, they all bust out. The draft is great for a talent injection into a farm system. Considering the low impact players the Cubs have on the farm currently, it’s not the worst idea to build via the draft. You can look at what the Rays did as a blueprint. At one point, the Rays had 200+ SP Starts all from guys they drafted. Think about that one.
  • Dis Jerry Riensdorf is cheap and he treats his players badly, just ask Jordanman! He paid Jordan 30 Mil. He paid Jordan to experiment with baseball. He paid Jay Williams even though he would never play again. There are countless stories like this. Stop listening to a crazy asshole like Jordan.
  • Da White Sox have da smarter fans because dey only show up when da team is good. Faulty logic aside, I’m waiting for you guys to show up. It’s pretty damn late in the year.
  • Da Cubs have da best fans because dere’s more Cub fans and we sell out da Wrigley! No. No we don’t anymore. Besides, having more does not equate to better.
  • Football is better because more people watch dan any udder sport! You must love soccer then. Justin Bieber sells more records than anyone, is he the best musician in history? Exactly. Kiss my ass.
  • Line stunts solves everting! Die in a fire.
  • Bear weather! Patriots disproved that one real quick. Ditto those pussy ass San Franciscans back in 88.
  • Da White Sox woulda won da 1994 World Series! You know they were only a game up on Cleveland right?
  • Bartman fucked it all up for us! You spelled “Dusty Gonzalez” wrong.

That’s all for now.

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Comments
  1. […] Dunn is simply fantastic theatre. What I mean by a “3 outcome player” is that most of his at-bats result one of three ways….a base on balls, a titanic strikeout or a complete and utter fucking BOMB of a homer. His walks are fun to watch….he works the count in a professional hitter way and intimidates the pitcher into staying away from him is how it usually goes. I like that because intimidation is not easy to do. His strikeouts are fun because that big bastard doesn’t get cheated when he swings and misses. I swear you can feel the breeze when he whiffs, even on TV. I haven’t seen monster hacks like those since the last Friday the 13th movie. And there, of course, are his homers. Keep fingers crossed that the link works…. […]

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