A plethora of adjectives could be used to describe Adam Dunn‘s first three years with the Chicago White Sox — none of which are positive. The burely designated hitter and first baseman was signed in the offseason before the 2011 campaign during the team’s “All In” movement. That four-year $56 million dollar contract will go down as one of the worst in franchise history. Since that time, Dunn has failed to live up to anyone’s expectations. Sox fans thought they were getting a guy that could hit 40 home runs and 100 runs batted-in in his sleep. Adding the lefty to the middle of the order with Paul Konerko was suppose to be like when the club paired future Hall of Famer Jim Thome with Paulie back in 2006.
At the end of the 2o11 season, the Sox realized that signing Dunn to a lucrative deal might have been a mistake. He went from a feared slugger to just a strikeout king seemlessly overnight. Dunn hit a dreadful .159 with an OBP of .292 while clobbering a total of 11 homers and 42 RBIs. The Big Donkey’s numbers were so laughable that even Stephen Colbert, of all people, poked fun at him. The Sox stressed to their fans that the struggles were just a part of Dunn’s adjustment to American League pitching.
Sure enough, Dunn started to turn it around in 2012. His 41 home runs and 96 RBIs made his All-Star season one filled with production, but his .333 OBP, .204 average, and league high 222 strikeouts made people still deem his Sox tenure as a failure up to that point. In 2013, Dunn slugged 34 balls over the fence while driving in 86. Still, he hit .219 with an OBP of .320 while continuing to look lost at the plate. During key moments of the game, Dunn would fail to make contact and take a slow walk back to the dugout.
Dunn’s struggles at the plate is what the Sox knew they were signing up for when they inked him to the deal three years ago. They knew that with the home runs and walks came countless strikeouts. What they did not expect was Dunn to be this dreadful at the plate. They imagined that Dunn would cause fearful pitchers to give other guys in the lineup pitches to hit because they did not want to face the former Cincinnati Reds powersource.
Instead, teams attacked Dunn and were willing to walk the bases loaded with two outs in order to face him. If there was a system that kept track of the league leaders in swinging at pitches in the dirt, Dunn would be at the top of that list. His plate discipline disappears at times and his inability to make adjustments during the game are detrimental to the team. Sabermetric gurus will point to Dunn’s positive offensive WAR over the last two seasons and say that he does contribute enough at the plate to help win games. While that is all fine and dandy, that stat is more indictative of the lack of quality replacements that the Sox have had, more so than Dunn’s own success.
Entering the game on Saturday, Dunn was sporting a slash of .262/.439/.524. The 34-year-old is off to his fastest start in a White Sox uniform. Unlike the first three seasons of his White Sox tenure, Dunn is hitting to all fields and is showing discipline at the plate. Numerous times he has fallen behind in the count but has been able to salvage a walk. Dunn is in the last year of his contract meaning that this will be his final year on the Southside of Chicago.
Dunn’s overall legacy with the White Sox will not be one people looked back on too fondly. One year of production will not erase the previous three years of inconsistency. At this point in time the Sox will have to take what they can get with Dunn. If he does continue to show a presence at the plate, the Sox might be able to finally swap him before the deadline. Sox fans will be happy to see the team’s free agent blunder finally leave their team. Bringing back a player of value might be the most useful thing Dunn has done for the franchise.