Defensive Shifts Are Destroying Adam Dunn's Numbers

By Bryan Lutz
Rob Grabowski – USA TODAY Sports

There isn’t a bigger Adam Dunn fan than I am. Even before Dunn became a member of the Chicago White Sox, I always enjoyed watching him play. So when the White Sox signed him before the 2011 season, I was obviously filled with joy. That joy turned to frustration in 2011, and that frustration turned into a little redemption in 2012. A lot of White Sox fans hate Adam Dunn, and I can understand those feelings in a way. I realize the traditional fan doesn’t appreciate Dunn’s low .200 average and 200+ strikeouts. However, Dunn hasn’t changed at all as a player – – defensive alignments have.

The shift is eating Adam Dunn’s average alive, taking away at least 20-25 hits over the course of the season. Dunn isn’t the only victim of the shift, seeing as other pull-happy hitters (Mark Teixeira, Ryan Howard) are having their averages decline as well. When you look at Dunn’s batted ball numbers, though, there is nothing that tells me that Dunn is in a rapid decline as a hitter; it’s more just basic aging. Outside of the obvious outlier in 2011, the key behind Dunn’s success is his BABIP. And with teams taking away Dunn’s landing spots, there will be a lot less hits to be had for the “Big Donkey”. For example, let’s look at the following numbers: Dunn’s 2012, 2004 (best), and career numbers to compare them.

Career average: .240/.370/.499, .372 wOBA, .288 ISO, 16.2 BB%, 28.2 K%, 19.8 LD%, 22.0 FB/HR%, and .288 BABIP

Career year (2004): .266/.388/.569, .402 wOBA, .321 ISO, 15.9 BB%, 28.6 K%, 19.8 LD%,  25.7 FB/HR%, and a .321 BABIP

Last season (2012): .204/.333/.468, .346 wOBA, .263 ISO, 16.2 BB%, 34.2 K%, 22.4 LD%, 29.3 FB/HR%, and a .246 BABIP

As you can see, outside of an increase in strikeouts, nothing has really changed for Adam Dunn. He’s still drawing the same amount of walks, he’s hitting more line drives, and his ISO is pretty close to his career average. The whole point I’m trying to make here is that Dunn is what he is, and teams have figured out what he is with the defensive shifts.

While it’s frustrating to watch him roll over a pitch and ground it into the shift, it’s hard to really fault him. Adam Dunn made his money by getting walks and dropping bombs, and he did that quite well last season.

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