The Resurgence of Adam Dunn
We all know about the enigma that was Adam Dunn last season. He finished with career lows in every hitting category – 11 home runs, 42 RBIs, 36 runs scored, and .159/.292/.277 splits. He struck out 177 times in 415 at bats. He was an embarrassment to White Sox fans and an even bigger embarrassment to himself. It had to be one of the worst seasons ever for any every day hitter. But the good news is that he’s playing like the Adam Dunn of old so far in 2012 (all stats can be found here).
While playing in a home-run-friendly ball park, Dunn’s home run/fly ball ratio last year of 9.6% was his lowest since a 17.6% ratio back in 2002. It’s now up to 28.6% this year. Dunn also posted a ground ball/fly ball ratio of 0.46, which is 0.24 lower than his career average. This means that he’s mashing the ball at a higher rate and getting a lot of extra base hits. Coincidentally, he already has half as many doubles (8) through 32 games compared to his 122 games last year, and he only needs one more homer to tie last season’s mark of 11.
His BABIP (batting average on balls in play) last season ended at .240, 60 points lower than your typical league average of .300, indicating that even when he did make contact, he tended to get unlucky, hitting the ball in the wrong spots at the wrong times. This season, he has a BABIP of .309, meaning that his numbers will more than likely not regress. That’s got to be great to hear for Sox fans.
Dunn has managed a .394 weighted on-base average (combines all the different aspects of hitting into one metric, weighting each of them in proportion to their actual run value), compared to his career low of .266 last season. He has also managed an isolated power (a measure of a hitter’s raw power, in terms of extra bases per at bat) of .321, compared to another career low of .118 last year. But what is he doing differently to put up these numbers, you ask? Fangraphs.com did an excellent job comparing Dunn’s 2011 and 2012 performance by calculating wOBA per pitch in different locations. The charts below compare these differences:
As you can see, Dunn is unequivocally crushing balls down the middle of the plate, something he was shockingly inept at doing last year. He’s also obliterating fastballs down the middle of the plate (.289 wOBA in 2012 vs. .087 wOBA in 2011). Clearly, Dunn has made some major adjustments this season and stopped pressing. He seems to feel much more comfortable at the plate in the American League, something that was completely new to him last year, and it’s showing through the first month and a half of this season.
However, there’s no guarantee that a regression won’t take place. Dunn is absolutely raking against righties, batting .300 with 10 homers, 21 RBIs and a 1.184 OPS. But against lefties – nauseating. He’s currently 3/31 (.097 BA) with no homers and an OPS of .418. As we all know, Dunn has really struggled against lefties throughout his career, sporting a .223 batting average against them (take away last season, though, and that averages raises to .232). Regardless of his career, Dunn’s current lefty numbers are 2011-esque. He better improve against southpaw pitching, or Robin Ventura may be forced to sit him more games against lefties like “Mr. I Love Fidel Castro” rightly chose to do last year. If Dunn’s scorching performance against righties does begin to backslide, Sox fans may be in for another long summer of Adam Dunn torture.