Is He Dunn?


By: Jon Peterlin

“ I would make the same move tomorrow again. ”

Those are the words of White Sox general manager Kenny Williams in regards to his slumping DH and his .158/.308/.316 batting line.

When it was announced that Adam Dunn would be leaving Washington and coming to the southside after inking a four year, 56 million dollar contract, the Sox proclaimed they were “all in.” With the 6-6 285 pound gigantic lefty in place, moving to one of the friendliest hitter ballparks in baseball at U.S. Cellular field, the Sox looked to take advantage of a weak AL central division.

The 31 year old showed no signs of slowing down after posting a good 2010 season knocking in 38 homeruns and 100 RBI’s for the fourth consecutive year. If Dunn was anything, it was consistent. Since 2004, it was a given he would hit around 40 homeruns, drive in close to 100, have a mediocre batting average hovering around .250 to .260 and strike out an alarming high 25-30 percent of the time.

This is nothing close to a consistent year for Dunn.

As the Sox take on the Royals tonight against rookie left hander Danny Duffy it didn’t take long for White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen to give Dunn the night off.

Even though Ozzie Guillen has been very vocal in stating he won’t sit Dunn at any point during this extended slump, Dunn’s stats against lefties make it easy, at least for tonight.

To say Dunn hasn’t hit lefties this year would be an understatement. Dunn has never fared well against southpaws hitting a career .224 against them, but in 2011 Dunn makes the mendoza line look good. Against lefties he’s hitting 2 for 64, his lone hits both being singles, to tally for a .031 batting average.

So he doesn’t hit lefties well, that’s okay right? He can make a Curtis Granderson-esque turn around and start hitting lefties with a minor tweak in his swing and everything will be okay.

If only it was that simple.

The fact of the matter is that he’s still below .200 on the year against righties as well. If Dunn continues at the pace he’s at striking out a whopping 124 times through 82 games, he could break Mark Reynold’s Major League record of 223 punchouts set in 2009.

So why is everyone in the White Sox organization so convinced he’ll turn it around in the second half? Are they wishful thinkers? Are they convinced that his past record would tell us that he’ll get on a streak and start contributing to the club?

I’d like to think so. Looking deeper into some of Dunn’s at bats, nothing suggests, except for the numbers themselves, he should be hitting this poorly. From fangraphs.com, here’s a look at his plate discipline numbers compared to his average numbers.

Z-Swing% – Percentage of pitches a batter swings at inside the strike zone.
2011 – 66.5% Career Average – 66.2%

Swing% – Total percentage of pitches a batter swings at.
2011 – 42.8% Career Average – 41.0%

Z-Contact% – Percentage of times a batter makes contact with the ball when swinging at pitches thrown within the strike zone.
2011 – 77.2% Career Average – 79.7%

Contact% – Percentage of contact made on all pitches.
2011 – 70.3% Career Average – 71.1%

SwStr% – Percentage of strikes that were swung at and missed.
2011 – 12.7% Career Average – 11.6%

All pretty similar to normal averages right? There’s one I left out that stands out the most and is the key to Adam Dunn’s failure at the plate this year.

O-Contact% – Percentage of times a batter makes contact with the ball when swinging at pitches thrown outside the strike zone.
2011 – 59.0% Career Average – 44.7%

As these numbers show it’s not even as if Dunn is receiving any unusual number of pitches outside the strike zone. Pitchers haven’t started solely attacking Dunn on the outside assuming he’ll swing at it and hit it into another embarrassing dribble back to the pitcher. American League pitchers haven’t exhausted themselves this way, Dunn has done it for them. When behind in the count 0-1 Dunn has gone 13-151 for a .086 batting average. When he’s down 0-2 in the count, they might as well stop the at bat right there, Dunn is just 1-73 on the year batting .014. It’s not rocket science, but his O-Contact% has resulted in too many weak grounders and a career low HR/FB rate hovering around 10% on the year.

As the Sox try to make a push in the division race trailing the Indians by 4.5 games entering Tuesday night in a division where they can make up ground, you have to wonder when will Dunn turn it around. With Alex Rios’s less than mediocre play, how long can Ozzie put up with two struggling performers? Only time will tell if Adam Dunn will turn it around, but for now the Sox still have confidence in their slugger, if only he had it in himself.

Twitter : @JPeterlin

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