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.
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.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
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.
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.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
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.