Being a mere three days from Opening Day and the first game of Adamís season at the age of 26, I spent this past offseason wondering just how great Dunn has been to this point in a historical context. So far in his young career, Dunnís already managed to hit 158 home runs and maintain a career line of .248/.383/.518 for a 132 career OPS+. On top of those impressive statistics, some fans will also cite two straight seasons of 100+ runs, 100+ RBI and 40 home runs, all before his 26th birthday.

All of which is impressive, very impressive. But just how impressive? Letís find out.

Code:
Dunn Win Shares

Age 21 (2001): 10
Age 22 (2002): 21
Age 23 (2003): 13
Age 24 (2004): 32
Age 25 (2005): 28

Career Win Shares per 162 games: 25.49
Weíll start by analyzing Dunnís seasons so far using win shares, which Iíve outlined above. In Adamís shortened rookie campaign of 2001, he burst on the season and still managed to post 10 win shares. In 2002, thanks in large part to 128 walks and a .400 on-base percentage, Dunn racked up 21 win shares, which is very good for a hitter 22-years-old. Unfortunately, Bob Boone and his antics got in the way of developing Dunn in 2003, and coupled with an injury, Adamís win shares total for the season was a paltry 13.

But then Dunn exploded in 2004 with 32 win shares, and followed that up in 2005 with 28 more win shares. An average of 30 win shares per season for two straight seasons heading into his peak years is exactly the recipe for Dunn if heís to put up a monster peak. Tacked on to his years of growth from age 21-23, Dunn has so far tallied 104 career win shares in 661 career games, good for a 25.49 win shares per 162 game average.

All of the above is impressive, yes, but how impressive still remains the question at large. What I did was analyze approximately 30-35 of the greatest left fielders ever to play the game and added in a few currently active players that have already exceeded their 25th birthday (Manny Ramirez, Brian Giles, Jason Bay, Lance Berkman and Brian Giles).

Like Dunn above, I tallied their total win shares for each of their seasons before the age of 26, and then I sorted the chart from top-to-bottom based on win shares per 162 games. Also included in the chart is current games before age 26, total win shares before age 26, and in the column to the very right, total career win shares, which I listed to give everybody a better understanding how each playerís career eventually unfolded.

Code:
Dunn vs. LF Greats Before Age 26

Players in BOLD are Hall of Famers
Players in ITALICS are still active
            
Player             Games   Total WS  WS/162  Career WS

Ted Williams        586      150     41.47      727*
Stan Musial         611      152     40.30      640*
Joe Jackson         601      138     37.20      323**
Charlie Keller      541      112     33.54      257*
Joe Medwick         788      121     33.10      312
Rickey Henderson    791      157     32.15      533
Joe Kelley          725      141     31.51      305
Sherry Magee        984      190     31.28      354
Al Simmons          558      104     30.19      375
Goose Goslin        716      127     28.73      355

Player             Games   Total WS  WS/162  Career WS

Jimmy Sheckard      892      153     27.79      339
Ralph Kiner         452       45     26.88      242
Jesse Burkett       536       86     25.99      389
George Burns        494       79     25.91      290
Adam Dunn           661      104     25.49      104
Jim Rice            644      100     25.15      282
Jason Bay           150       23     24.84       57
Barry Bonds         566       86     24.61      662
Fred Clarke         615       93     24.50      400
Manny Ramirez       552       80     23.48      310

Player             Games   Total WS  WS/162  Career WS

Lance Berkman       304       43     22.91      151
Carl Yastrzemski    743      103     22.46      488
Chick Hafey         436       60     22.29      186
Tim Raines          731      100     22.16      390
Greg Luzinski       742      101     22.05      247
Ed Delahanty        628       57     21.93      355
Roy White           488       64     21.25      263
Frank Howard        367       47     20.75      297
Heinie Manush       464       59     20.60      285
Billy Williams      496       63     20.58      374

Player             Games   Total WS  WS/162  Career WS

Zack Wheat          583       73     20.28      380
Brian Giles          57        7     19.89      234
Willie Stargell     379       42     17.95      370
Albert Belle        347       37     17.27      245
Lou Brock           430       45     16.95      348
Jose Cruz           338       35     16.78      313
Bobby Veach         160       16     16.20      265
Joe Carter          232       18     12.57      240
George Foster       340       25     11.91      269

* Applied WWII credit
** Currently on the ineligible list
Some players burst onto the scene at a young age, but fizzle out early (see Charlie Keller). Other players either struggle early in their career or arrive in the majors at an older age and put up their big seasons later in their career (see Zack Wheat and Willie Stargell, among others). Most of the ultra special players arrive early with a bang, have a massive peak, play well into their 30s and leave a lasting impression upon millions of fans. It could be argued that Adam Dunn has started out on that path to being one of those ultra special players.

Out of 39 total left fielders listed, Dunn ranks 15th in win shares per 162 games. His rate of win shares is ahead of every other current active player listed, and incredibly it is also higher than nine Hall of Fame players, those being Fred Clark, Carl Yastrzemski, Chick Hafey, Ed Delahanty, Heinie Manush, Billy Williams, Zack Wheat, Willie Stargell and Lou Brock. Of the non-Hall of Fame players ahead of Dunn, Charlie Keller was finished by the age of 30, Joe Jackson is on the ineligible list, Rickey Henderson should be a virtual lock once he's eligible, and both Sherry Magee and Jimmy Sheckard have strong arguments to belong in Cooperstown. Only George Burns had a somewhat lengthy career and doesn't belong in the Hall based purely on his playing record. Jim Rice, who ranks underneath Dunn at 25.12 win shares per 162 before the age of 26, currently has an array of Hall supporters.

In total win shares before age 26, Dunnís 104 win shares is tied for 11th all-time with Hall of Famer Al Simmons, not a bad guy to rank alongside. That total also ranks higher than 11 Hall of Fame players, those being all nine listed in the paragraph above as well as Ralph Kiner and Jesse Burkett.

All in all, to put it bluntly and state the obvious, Adam Dunn hasnít had a bad start to his blossoming career. Hopefully for Reds fans, the best of Adam Dunn is still very much in the future, with each season from 2006-2009 falling within the peak years of the average player. Nobody yet knows just how great Dunn will be, but heís already allowed us to glance at an early indicator.

Watch this kid. Already his accomplishments are mighty impressive on a historical level. Most fans already realize this, but heís got enormous potential to be a very special player, perhaps even greater than most fans realize.