Solution number 24: a whiffing mate for Dunn | Bleader

Friday, September 23, 2011

Solution number 24: a whiffing mate for Dunn

Posted By on 09.23.11 at 12:35 PM

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Has anyone ever been better positioned for comeback player of the year than Adam Dunn? He has 11 homers and, after another 0 for 4 last night, a .164 average. He could double his HR total next year and raise his average 50 points and still be well below his career norms. Dunn needs to win comeback player each of the next two years just to get even.

Dunn fanned once last night, reducing his magic number to eight—that's how many Ks he needs to set the White Sox season record for strikeouts, which is currently 175. In the contest between his whiffs and his batting average, whiffs widened their lead (168 to .164).

The Big Breeze's propensity to fan, while fascinating, hasn't been the main problem for the Sox this year. The problem has been the lack of homers, and that microscopic average. Of the 169 batters in the big leagues this season with at least 450 plate appearances, Dunn's average is 169th. And no batter is in the same time zone as him: the 168th hitter, Kelly Johnson, who played for Arizona earlier this year and now is with Toronto, is hitting a combined .218—54 points higher than Dunn. The 164th hitter, by the way, is Sox center fielder Alex Rios, who's hitting .224; and number 160 is their second baseman, Gordon Beckham, at .229. The Sox have no batter in the top ten in average, but they've got the basement covered.

While strikeouts haven't been the key problem for the Sox, they could be a key to a solution. Over the winter, the Sox should try to acquire at least one more whiffer like Dunn to take the pressure off him.

We acknowledge that this isn't the first solution we've proposed this season. Among the others: a Big Breeze Appreciation Day, to make him feel more supported; a system whereby Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who rarely strikes out, offers Dunn one of his strikes; a plot to stick Dunn with extended jury duty for, ideally, the remaining three-plus years of his contract. But this time we know once again that we're onto something.

We here at the Dunn K Watch aren't big fans of the whiffer/slugger. We find strikeouts boring. We prefer hitters who put the ball in play and race around the bases to those who come up empty time after time and, when they do finally connect, merely trot around the diamond.

But we're stuck with the Big Breeze for three more years and have to make the best of it. And we suspect the big lug is pretty lonely, and stressed by all the jokes and jeers about his Ks. (We of course have been leading offenders.) Misery needs company, but no one on the Sox strikes out nearly as often as Dunn. He could use a running buddy—er, whiffing buddy; someone to commiserate with.

Although they may be boring, whiffers often are quite productive. Orioles' third baseman Mark Reynolds would look great alongside Dunn. He's got 185 Ks, and, though just a .222 average, 36 HRs. Or maybe Reds' right fielder Jay Bruce (152 Ks, .257, 31 HRs).

We're proposing the Sox forget about small ball and try whiffle ball instead. They already have a whiffer/slugger in training in catcher Tyler Flowers, who's fanned 36 times this season in just 100 ABs. One more whiffer/slugger added to Dunn and Flowers would be something to behold. Instead of a Murderers Row, they'd be the "Special Ks," or the "Fan Club." Where better than the Windy City for such a blustery heart of the order? By sharing the pressure inherent in whiffing/slugging, they might all do well. Dunn would breeze to that comeback player award.

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