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Sunday, April 09, 2006

Better Know a Red #5 - Adam Dunn

In part 5 of our ongoing series, Better Know a Red, we turn to our first offensive player (by random draw), as well as our first genuine star: Adam Dunn. Dunn's career began when he was selected by the Reds in the 2nd round of the 1998 amateur draft out of the University of Texas, where he was also a football quarterback. He soon opted to dedicate himself exclusively to baseball, much to the Reds' delight. Dunn rose quickly through the minor league ranks, making his MLB debut with flourish in 2001: he hit 19 homers in 211 AB's, along with a 0.371 OBP his rookie year. He has since secured a reputation as one of the most exciting, not to mention controversial hitters the Reds have had. This spring, he signed a 3-year contract extension, insuring the big slugger will be around for at least a few years more.

For additional biographical information, please see Dunn's entry in Red Hot Mama's Human League.

Historical Stats (please refer to my Baseball Statistics Quicksheet for descriptions and explanations of the statistics used here):
Year/Team PA K/BB SB/% OBP SLG OPS GPA EqA VORP GB/OF/LD
2003/CIN 469 1.70 8/80% 0.354 0.465 0.819 0.275 0.281 10.1 ---
2004/CIN 681 1.81 6/87% 0.388 0.569 0.956 0.317 0.310 53.4 ---
2005/CIN 671 1.47 4/67% 0.387 0.540 0.927 0.309 0.307 45.0 20%/22%/10%
Dunn's numbers are amazing, particularly given that he just turned 26 in November. Even in '03, when he struggled, he maintained a 0.350+ OBP. The last two years, Dunn has maintained a 0.900+ OPS as well as 0.300+ GPA's and EqA's. Superstar numbers. His VORP is immense as well--50 runs over a replacement player?! His WARP (Wins Above Replacement player) the last two years has been 6.0 and 6.2 wins. This effectively means that the Reds would have been 67-95 instead of 73-89 last year. Very few players have such a tremendous effect on a team's record, particularly over multiple seasons. His scorching July of last year (0.391 OBP, 0.701 SLG, 11 HR) helped him win the National League July Player of the Month Award. All this despite having a broken hand for much of last year.

In addition to his power, Adam Dunn is an incredibly patient hitter. 19% of his plate appearances resulted in walks last year. Only one hitter walked at a higher rate: Jason Giambi (23%). Trailing Dunn are Brian Giles (18%), Todd Helton (18%), Bobby Abreu (17%), Lance Berkman (17%), Jim Edmonds (17%), Nick Johnson (17%), and Chipper Jones (17%). Nice company.

Comparable players to Adam Dunn from Baseball-Reference.com, through age 25:
  1. Darryl Strawberry (927)
  2. Reggie Jackson (926) *
  3. Jose Canseco (918)
  4. Troy Glaus (909)
  5. Tom Brunansky (902)
  6. Juan Gonzalez (901)
  7. Boog Powell (901)
  8. Rocky Colavito (891)
  9. Tony Conigliaro (890)
  10. Harmon Killebrew (883) *
Pretty impressive group. There are some that fizzled a bit (Conigliaro, Brunansky, Strawberry) in their late 20's, but with the possible exception of Strawberry, Dunn's already a far better hitter than those guys ever were. The others include two hall of famers and a bunch of guys who had, or are having excellent careers. It will be fun to watch Dunn and see how he continues to develop.

Those that dislike Adam Dunn tend to knock him for one of two weaknesses in his game. The first is his strikeout rate, which is very high -- he struck out a major league record 195 times in 2004, and, while improved a great deal in '05, he still struck out 168 times. It is true that strikeouts are among the most unproductive outs one can make, save for grounding into a double play or getting caught stealing. Nevertheless, he does so many other things well that I, at least, find this critique to be very overblown: he gets on base, he hits for power, and he's an absolutely delightful guy in the clubhouse. You can do a lot worse. The other knock against him is his fielding...and I'll discuss that below.

2003 to 2005 Splits:
Year/Team PA K/BB OBP SLG OPS GPA
vs Left 577 2.16 0.341 0.462 0.803 0.269
vs Right 1238 1.47 0.398 0.565 0.963 0.320
Home 906 1.61 0.397 0.589 0.987 0.326
Away 909 1.69 0.363 0.475 0.838 0.282
These numbers are very interesting and deserve some attention. First, while still adequate and above that of a replacement player, Dunn's production vs. lefthanders is much weaker than his insane production against righties (keep in mind his relatively poor 2003 season are included in these numbers...the last two years have been scary vs. righties, with an OPS over 1.000 both years). A 0.803 OPS vs. lefthanders is still decent. However, the magnitude of this split has steadily increased over the last three years. One of the things I'll be most interested to see this year, beyond whether he can maintain his massive overall production, is to see if Dunn is able to reverse this trend and hit lefthanders a bit better.

It is also worth noting that Dunn has a fairly substantial home/away split. Dunn hits a lot of big fly balls and thus can take advantage of GABP's home run-friendliness. This appears to have translated into much better production at home than away (26 of his 40 home runs were hit at home in '05). Interestingly, this has not been consistent over the years. There was a large split in '03 (0.888 home, 0.740 away), but the gap narrowed in '04 (0.990 at home, 0.925 away), only to widen dramatically in '05 (1.057 at home, 0.805 away). Dunn is a very good hitter, but I'd like to see him improve his consistency in away games.

Fielding:
(as this is the first time I'm reporting fielding stats, please be sure to check the Baseball Statistics Quicksheet on these numbers. They are all fairly new stats and some involve some adjustments that I've made to hopefully make them more readily understandable)

Left Field:
Pos. Year DI's Dewan+- (plays/yr) DialZR (runs/yr) Gassko (runs/yr) D*G (runs/yr) Pinto (runs) Davenport (runs/yr) DewanHold (% held) Walsh (runs/yr)
LF 2003 829 -7 --- --- --- --- -10 -1.3 ---
LF 2004 1327 -18 --- --- --- --- -17 8.4 ---
LF 2005 1091 -20 -2.0 -7.4 -3.78 0.948 -12 1.8 0.1
Aside from his strikeouts, the second item over which Dunn's critics love to attack him is his fielding. Dunn's fielding range stats in left field range from roughly average (DialZR, Pinto) to very bad (Dewan, Davenport). When there's a discrepancy, I tend to trust John Dewan's (Fielding Bible) system, as intuitively, it seems to more directly measure range than the other systems. And his system is among the harshest on Dunn, ranking him 28th out of 30 regulars at LF last year. Despite Dunn's past as a quarterback, Dunn's arm appears to be pretty average, ranking in the middle of pack by both Dewan and Walsh's arm rating systems. At best, Dunn's an average fielder, and probably is a fair bit below average in terms of his range. This was part of the reason that many looked forward to moving him to first after the Casey trade. In limited playing time, here is how his 1B numbers stack up from last year:

First Base:
Pos. Year DI's Dewan+- (plays/yr) DialZR (runs/yr) Davenport (runs/yr) Bunt (+/-score)
1B 2005 251.3 -21 -3.1 5 4.6
It's hard to say much from this small number of defensive innings, but the fielding stats seem a bit split on Dunn at 1B. Dewan rated him as well below average, while Davenport rated him as a plus fielder. I'm honestly not sure about either stat for first basemen. Even with an adequate number of innings, neither incorporates information about receiving throws from infielders--probably the most important aspect of a defensive first baseman.

At this point, I'll just assume he's an average defender at 1B. If nothing else, he's bound to improve if he ever gets decent playing time there. His performance on bunts was above average last year, a testament to his athleticism. Given his relatively poor fielding performance in left field, a move to 1B does seem like a logical move for Dunn. The cost, of course, is that Hatteberg will be forced out of the lineup. So, ultimately, the question comes down to whether Hatteberg's offense and defense (minus Dunn's LF performance) is more valuable than Denorfia (or whoever)'s offense and defense (minus Dunn's 1B performance). I may try to revisit that question later on.

Projections:
Year/Team PA K/BB SB/% OBP SLG OPS GPA EqA VORP
PECOTA75 625 1.38 6/67% 0.404 0.587 0.991 0.329 0.323 55.6
PECOTA 645 1.42 6/75% 0.393 0.558 0.951 0.316 0.313 46.6
PECOTA25 581 1.49 5/71% 0.375 0.512 0.887 0.297 0.296 29.9
ZiPS 662 1.53 5/71% 0.388 0.560 0.948 0.315 --- ---
It sure is nice when the bad-case PECOTA projection (PECOTA25) still predicts a 0.375 OBP, 0.887 OPS, 0.296 EqA season from our big slugger. Dunn's poised to have a huge year. His hand issues are resolved, he has a contract extension, and it looks like he'll be able to hang with his bash-buddies Griffey and Kearns all season long. I'd say that only an injury could hold him back. As I said above, I'd like to see a bit more consistency from him in terms of his home/away and left/right splits, but it's really hard to be upset at a guy that's giving you annual 0.900+ OPS production. He, like Griffey, is a special hitter. He has his flaws, but he sure is exciting to watch and is a tremendous asset for our team. Might be the funniest guy in sports too. My advice to Reds fans is to sit back and enjoy Mr. Dunn for these next three years...and hopefully more.

References:
Baseball Cube, The
Baseball Prospectus
Baseball Prospectus '06 Annual
Baseball Reference
Baseball Think Factory
CBS Sportsline
Fan Graphs
Fielding Bible
Hardball Times '06 Annual