Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Mr. Dunn goes to Washington

The Nats got themselves a steal in Adam Dunn for two years, $20 million. Dunn is a very strangely controversial player, inasmuch as he flys pretty low under the radar. Still there are people out there who hate Adam Dunn. Toronto Blue Jays General Manager J.P. Ricciardi recently made the conventional anti-Dunn argument.

“Do you know the guy doesn’t really like baseball that much?” Ricciardi asked a call-in show questioner. “Do you know the guy doesn’t have a passion to play the game that much?"

Dunn is also controversial for another of Ricciardi's charges, that he's "a lifetime .230, .240 hitter that strikes out a ton and hits home runs." Dunn is a lifetime .247 hitter, and he strikes out in 32.4 percent of his at-bats.

That doesn't mean Dunn is particularly prone to making outs. Break out the handy Baseball Reference Play-Index and sort the numbers of all active non-pitchers between age 21 and 28 -- the years Dunn has been active in the Majors -- by the number of outs they have made. Dunn ranks 18th, behind Jimmy Rollins (2nd), A-Roid (3rd), The Pujols (6th), Derek Jeter (11th), Barry Bonds (12th), and Carlos Beltran (15th). The rest of the list is impressive enough. You have to be pretty good to make a lot of outs at a young age, to be allowed to make a lot of outs at a young age.

Go back to the Play-Index and sort the same group* by on-base percentage and see that Dunn is 13th. Dunn ranks behind fellow free agent Manny Ramirez (3rd) but ahead of fellow free agent Mark Teixeira (14th).

Sort the same group by home runs and see that Dunn ranks 4th.

So Adam Dunn makes a lot of outs, though he still gets on base at an elite level, and he slugs the ever-loving crap out of the ball. Dunn will be moving to first base, where defense is really a formality. He's a valuable hitter who isn't going to kill you defensively.

Less than a week after Ryan Howard, who is 10 days younger than Dunn, signed for three years and $54 million, THE NATIONALS signing Dunn for two years and $20 million is a veritable masterstroke for Nats GM Jim Bowden. Bowden, however, is still a doufus with a segway, a DUI -- unrelated -- and Elijah Dukes.

As far Adam Dunn not liking baseball goes, if not liking baseball means a .381 OBP and 40 home runs every year, like clockwork, I'll take not liking baseball any day. Adam Dunn may not wear his heart on his sleeve, but you don't get to the Major Leagues without caring. A lot. Saying otherwise disrespects the amount of work that it takes to be a Major Leaguer.

* Lie. I set a minumum number of 879 games played to exclude Kei Igawa.

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