Currently Historic: Adam Dunn Edition

Hey! I’m back. Sorry about not having a column last week, but I’m ready to go now. Let’s get to it.

First, commenter Michael pointed out that Juan Pierre has been caught stealing 194 times. That is currently the eighth most ever. It’s unlikely that he gets to 200 by the end of the year, but we’ll keep an eye on it and note if he moves up any spots (he needs only one more to move into a tie for seventh).

Now, I want to talk about some Adam Dunn. I don’t know that there has ever been a player quite like him. I started following Dunn when he was a highly-touted call-up in 2001. It took him a few years to really get going, but since he did, he hasn’t let up (except for 2011).

Excluding that one aberrant year, his on-base percentage has ranged from .353 to .400. His slugging percentage has ranged from .454 to .569 (if you start in 2004, the Range is from .490-.569). Those numbers explain perfectly what Adam Dunn does. He takes walks and he hits for power. That’s his skill set. He doesn’t do anything else. He can’t field. He doesn’t steal bases. He doesn’t hit for average. No, he takes walks and he hits homers.

But he is so good at those things that he has put together a very good career. He is by no means a Hall of Famer, but he has been an excellent ballplayer.

It’s interesting to look at how modern fielding numbers have changed our view of Adam Dunn. FanGraphs calculates him to have been worth 26.2 wins over the course of his career. However, he has lost almost 13 wins because of his atrocious work in the field, and another nine wins to positional adjustments. A defense neutral Adam Dunn would have been worth 48 or so wins at this point in his career. Those aren’t quite Hall of Fame numbers, but they aren’t far off.

And no, I don’t think Dunn should to into the Hall of Fame. However, it is interesting to realize how much offense he’s generated and to think about how he might have been viewed differently if we had less statistical knowledge than we do now.

Of course, we haven’t touched on his strikeouts yet. Adam Dunn strikes out a lot. He currently has 1,955 strikeouts. He will shortly become the sixth person ever to reach 2,000 (ARod became the fifth right before he broke his hand). He will likely finish the season fourth or fifth on the list (depending on Rodriguez’s recovery). He has three of the top 11 strikeout seasons ever. There is a very good chance that he will strikeout more this year than anyone ever has. he’s currently on pace for 244. The record is 223.

And he’s only 32.

Now, obviously, players like Dunn can age fast (we saw shades of that last year), but what if he keeps being good enough to play until he’s 35 or 36? He’ll crush Reggie Jackson’s (or possibly, by then, Jim Thome’s) career record of 2,597. While it’s a long shot, it’s not impossible to imagine Dunn striking out 3000 times before he retires. That would take more longevity than we’ll probably see from him, but it’s possible. He’ll only need five or so more seasons to get there.

And he’s still good. He’s good because he walks 16.3 percent of the time. That is a top-30 all-time number. He’s good because 22.1 percent of his fly balls go over the fence. That’s tenth all-time.

So what you have is the perfect TTO monster. That’s why he’s on pace to finish the season with 424 TTOs. That’s why 60 percent of the time this year, he doesn’t put the ball in play. He is an amazing ballplayer in the truest sense of the word. I don’t understand how he exists, but it’s neat that he does.

We have an interesting addition to the column this week. Aroldis Chapman made an appearance on the very first edition and then decided to stink for a week and fell off our radar. Since then, however, he’s been striking out batters at an absolutely insane pace. His K/9 rate is currently 17.16. Among players with at least 21 innings (Chapman currently has 46.2), that’s the highest ever. If you drop it to 20 innings, Craig Kimbrel’s 2010 season beats him out. After that, you have to go all the way down to 5.2 innings to find another pitcher with a higher strikeout rate than Chapman. Amazing doesn’t cover it.

Among our other regulars, there is much news to report. Jim Thome keeps playing and he keeps striking out. He now has 2,530 Ks. That only 67 away from the all-time record. He also finally passed Sammy Sosa and now has the seventh most homers ever. He’s probably not passing Ken Griffey this year, but that’s still a nice achievement. Let’s just hope he keeps going out there.

Last week, we (didn’t) started paying attention to the Red Sox as they were on pace to break the team record of 376. They’ve fallen off the pace a bit, but they are on track for 367, which is certainly close enough to keep them on the radar for another week or two.

As mentioned above, Alex Rodriguez has now struck out exactly 2,000 times. He is the fifth player ever to do that. Congratulations (or something). When he comes back, he’ll quickly move up another spot as he needs only four more to pass Andres Galarraga for fourth all-time. He’s also now just one RBI away from Ty Cobb at seventh place all-time and four runs away from Tris Speaker for 11th. He won’t be passing Willie Mays on the homer list though. Not this year. Time to drop that one.

A Hardball Times Update
Goodbye for now.

Derek Jeter has passed Tris Speaker and now has his eyes on Rod Carew for seventh most singles ever. He should get there in a few weeks. He’s now 16th all by himself in runs scored and figures to move into 15th before long. Nap Lajoie is in his sights at 13th on the all-time hits list, but it will probably be mid-August or so before he gets there.

At just one strikeout off the pace, it looks like R.A. Dickey really does have a chance to lead the league in strikeouts. Cool.

Congratulations are in order for Miguel Cabrera who hit homer number 300 this week. Ryan Howard hit three of his own, and it ow just ten away from that particular round number.

Bobby Abreu stole another base! That’s 397. He’s like greased lightning or something. Jose Reyes and Jimmy Rollins also made progress and now have have 391 and 389 steals respectively.

Todd Helton (567) and Bobby Abreu (565) have just stopped hitting doubles and are still 22nd and 23rd all-time.

That’s another week down. You’ll notice the list growing smaller as we enter into the final third of the season. That’s the nature of baseball. Let me know what I’m missing in the comments.

Jason teaches high school English, writes fiction, runs a small writing program and writes about education and literature. He also writes for Redleg Nation and both writes and edits for The Hardball Times. Follow him on Twitter @JasonLinden, visit his website or email him here.
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11 years ago

What is the record for TTOs in a season? Will Dunn break that record too or does Bonds own it because of his freakish HR+BB totals late in his career?

Jason Linden
11 years ago

Michael – As far as I know, no one tracks total TTOs. I’ve been waiting until it’s a little deeper in the season to figure it out for certain, though it’s probably time to set that in stone. I have, however, done a bit of research and as best I can tell these are the top 3:

1. Mark McGwire, 1998 – 387 TTOs
2. Adam Dunn, 2004 – 349
3. Barry Bonds, 2001 – 343

I still have some research to do, obviously, but I’ll try to have a top ten soon (maybe next week). The real key is huge strikeout and walk numbers as it is relatively easy to surpass 100 walks and 150 strikeouts, whereas the homerun record, as you know is 73.

Jason Linden
11 years ago

An additional note, Mark Reynolds is actually tied for third (that slipped my mind). He had 343 in 2009.

David P Stokes
11 years ago

I don’t think that we’d have much of a different view of Dunn if we had less statistical knowledge.  It doesn’t take advanced metrics to figure out that he walks and hits for power but doesn’t do anything else that helps the team.  Sure, advanced metrics let us put numbers to his defensive weaknesses more easily, but it would be pretty obvious without them that he’s not a good defensive player.  And he’s actually helped a bit by modern offensive metrics that don’t place much more value on OBP and slugging than on batting average.

Jason Linden
11 years ago

I don’t know, I think we might. I don’t think players were properly penalized for defensive ineptitude before we had advanced stats. It was more, “Hey, he’s kinda clumsy in the field, but boy can he hit.” That was the point I was trying to make, at least.

11 years ago

Joe Savery finally appeared in a Phillies’ win on July 23—the team is 1-17 in his appearances.

He pitched a scoreless 9th with the Phils trailing 6-3.  The Phils scored 4 in the bottom of the ninth to give Joe his first career win.

Cliff Blau
11 years ago

Jeter is also two strikeouts behind Mickey Mantle for the Yankees career record.

dazed and whatever
11 years ago

“players were properly penalized for defensive ineptitude” ???

If infielders didn’t stop the ball, they were replaced in the time before free agency.  The only allowed exception was 1st base, and much of that is due to some Iron Horse.  The outfield was the place for the “boy can he hit” players.  Advanced stats have been around since the 50s, check with Branch Rickey.

Advanced stats also fool many, yesterday I had to listen to some fool Cub announcer raving about how many runners Soriano had thrown out and how it meant he was the greatest.  No mention of how due to ineptitude of fielding and throwing, a lot more players ran on him.  It’s still lies, darn lies and statistics all the way down to the trading deadline.

dazed II
11 years ago

P.S.  I love this stuff, this is now one of my must reads for the week.