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Thread: Dunn, Maas, and "Old Player's Skills"

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    Lark11 11BarryLarkin11's Avatar
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    Dunn, Maas, and "Old Player's Skills"

    After watching Dunn continue to pile up the numbers, despite his low batting average, I thought that I'd give the Dunn bashers something that might justify their constant worry.

    When I see a player like Adam Dunn, who is very big and not especially agile, I always thought this is a guy who is going to age poorly. People get bigger and less mobile as they age, so I think these types of players are going to be especially susceptible to the effects of aging. Mo Vaughn, Cecil Fielder, and Carlos Delgado are some of the players that I thought would be more susceptible to the effects of aging, as they don’t have much margin for error in the mobility and defensive departments. Basically, I’ve always thought that big lumbering guys weren’t good bets to be of value later in their careers.

    As such, I've pretty much always thought that Adam Dunn shouldn't be brought back much after the age of 30. At that point, he’ll be very expensive and his game seems unlikely to stand up to the test of time. I’m a HUGE Dunn backer, but I’m not sure that even I want to see him in GABP at first base or in leftfield at the age of 33.

    In that same vein, I recently came across a book which contained a Bill James wrote an article wherein he discussed what he called “Old Player’s Skills” and “Young Player’s Skills”. I found it to be rather interesting, as James breaks down the issue much further, and I couldn’t help but think of a player that we all know and love (well, not all of us ).

    In essence, James considers power and drawing walks to be “Old Player’s Skills”, as the majority of players tend to improve their power and walks as they age (I don’t necessarily agree much with the improved walk rate, but that’s a discussion for another day ). And, he considers speed and batting average to be “Young Player’s Skills”, as batting average and speed decline over time.

    Now, here’s the part that directly relates to the Reds. James believes that young players who succeed primarily on the basis of “Old Player’s Skills” will peak EARLIER in their career and age FASTER! I’m sure we can all think of a particular Reds leftfielder who fits this mold.

    I won’t get into their specific details, but James performed a couple of studies in which the players with “young player’s skills” did indeed have substantially longer careers than those who relied primarily on “old player’s skills”. Not to say that those players who relied on “old player skills” didn’t have good careers, but rather that they peaked earlier and didn’t last as long.

    Recently, the writers at Baseball Prospectus recently used James’ theory to explain the remarkable career of Kevin Maas. For those of you who don’t know, Maas was at one time the hottest thing since sliced bread. Maas came up in 1990 at the age of 25, which is a bit old for a prospect, and hit 21 homers in 254 At Bats. Maas exploded onto the scene that summer and was compared to everyone from Will Clark to Roy Hobbs. Maas still holds the MLB record for being the fastest player to reach 10 homeruns, which he managed to do in 77 At Bats. He captured the imagination of much of the baseball world, including me.

    Maas was a good prospect before hitting the majors, but he was one who relied on “old player skills”. He had a strong OBP and good power, but a knee injury and poor genetics robbed him of speed and agility, which made him a poor defender. He also never posted a great batting average in the minors, but likely deserved to be called up before the age of 25. After his meteoric rise, it didn’t take long for Maas to struggle and his career flamed out at an early age.

    Now, Maas is an extreme example, but I think James may have been on to something with his theory. Now, that’s NOT to say that having a YOUNG player on the team who succeeds by virtue of “old player’s skills” isn’t a good idea, but rather that one should be wary of keeping him on the team for too long.

    In other words, giving Dunn a HUGE contract after his current one expires may not be the best idea in the world, as he may well peak earlier and fade away faster than expected. And, having a big dollar contract tied up in a player of that kind could be crippling to this franchise. In James’s view, Dunn’s batting average won’t get better as he ages, but rather it’ll worsen. And, Dunn will become even more lumbering, as he adds on the pounds that come with aging and loses the speed that goes with it.

    How much worse can Dunn’s batting average and defense get before it outweighs his walk and power production? At some point, the immense power and walk benefits that Dunn provides will be outweighed by his defensive, mobility, and batting average problems.

    It won’t happen this year or next year or even the year after that, but it’ll likely happen SOONER than we think. Hopefully, the front office takes that into account when considering the next contract for Adam Dunn. Enjoy Dunn's performance while it lasts, as he might not be around as quite as long as we should hope.

    As usual, just my $.02.

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    Rally Onion! Chip R's Avatar
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    Re: Dunn, Maas, and "Old Player's Skills"

    So Dunn no longer is Kingman but now he's Maas?
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    Plays The Right Way Hap's Avatar
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    Re: Dunn, Maas, and "Old Player's Skills"

    I have bashed Dunn as much as anyone else, including several suggestions back in 2003 that he be sent to Louisville.

    However...........................................

    I have noticed great improvements in his defense in LF. And last night's game winning hit was the line drive single in a line drive single situation that we have all been hoping for.

    He will continue to get his share of strikeouts and walks and warning track flyouts. But, I think he is finally learning how to play the game.
    .

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    Member ochre's Avatar
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    Re: Dunn, Maas, and "Old Player's Skills"

    You must love Hatteberg, because it sounds like he's what you want Dunn to become.
    4009



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    Charlie Brown All-Star IslandRed's Avatar
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    Re: Dunn, Maas, and "Old Player's Skills"

    11, I'd also had Adam Dunn pop into my head when I was reading that chapter. It's a reasonable thing to consider in a couple of years when it's time to decide how much money we're willing to spend to extend his contract again.
    Not all who wander are lost

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    Yay! dabvu2498's Avatar
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    Re: Dunn, Maas, and "Old Player's Skills"

    Quote Originally Posted by ochre
    You must love Hatteberg, because it sounds like he's what you want Dunn to become.
    I don't want to speak for 11BL11, but I'd take Boog Powell's career for Dunn's "potential" right now.

    Plus, Boog got 2 rings, 2 other WS appearances, and 4 total playoff appearances.
    When all is said and done more is said than done.

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    Harry Chiti Fan registerthis's Avatar
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    Re: Dunn, Maas, and "Old Player's Skills"

    Quote Originally Posted by dabvu2498
    Plus, Boog got 2 rings, 2 other WS appearances, and 4 total playoff appearances.
    Yep, Boog Powell played on some good O's teams there in the 70s.

    IIRC, Billy Bates has a World Series Ring.

    Rings are satisfying to the player, but mean little when discussing a player's worth or abilities.
    We'll burn that bridge when we get to it.

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    Churlish Johnny Footstool's Avatar
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    Re: Dunn, Maas, and "Old Player's Skills"

    Mike Schmidt had "old player skills" throughout his career. So did Harmon Killebrew. Jim Thome did, too.

    It's really not "old player skills". It's "late-count hitting."

    Now, if you want to approach it from the angle of big-bodied players tending to break down later in their careers, you *might* have a justification for trading Dunn away before he hits his mid-30's. It would be tough to prove, though -- lots of players break down in their mid-30's, regardless of body size.
    "I prefer books and movies where the conflict isn't of the extreme cannibal apocalypse variety I guess." Redsfaithful

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    Member ochre's Avatar
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    Re: Dunn, Maas, and "Old Player's Skills"

    Quote Originally Posted by dabvu2498
    I don't want to speak for 11BL11, but I'd take Boog Powell's career for Dunn's "potential" right now.

    Plus, Boog got 2 rings, 2 other WS appearances, and 4 total playoff appearances.
    I'm not sure exactly what you mean, but Dunn already has better seasons on the books than any of Boog's, except maybe 1970. But you are right. Dunn's no Jim Palmer, Mike Cuellar, or Dave McNally. Good call.
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    breath westofyou's Avatar
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    Re: Dunn, Maas, and "Old Player's Skills"

    Classic old player skills can be found in

    Tom Brunansky

    Phil Plantier

    Ben Grieve

    Roy Cullenbine.

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    Re: Dunn, Maas, and "Old Player's Skills"

    I've thought about this very thing. James' point, I think, was that "old" players don't have much in the tank atheletically, and, ergo, cannot afford much slippage before becoming worthless. Dunn, however, is much more of an athelete than guys like Maas or Ron Kittle or Ken Phelps.

    He could also be this guy:

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/k/killeha01.shtml
    The widow is gathering nettles for her children's dinner; a perfumed seigneur, delicately lounging in the Oeil de Boeuf, hath an alchemy whereby he will extract the third nettle and call it rent. ~ Carlyle

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    Yay! dabvu2498's Avatar
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    Re: Dunn, Maas, and "Old Player's Skills"

    Quote Originally Posted by ochre
    I'm not sure exactly what you mean, but Dunn already has better seasons on the books than any of Boog's, except maybe 1970. But you are right. Dunn's no Jim Palmer, Mike Cuellar, or Dave McNally. Good call.
    Defensive, defensive...

    OK, here's my Dunn rant, once and for all. And I'll put this disclaimer on it: I'm expressing the way a lot of "casual" Reds fans fell. Not all of these opinions are 100% mine, but most of them are somewhat valid.

    Here's the Dunn statistic that most Reds fans get frustrated with, though it doesn't come out that way:
    .481, .426, .469, .450

    Anyone? Anyone? It's not BARISP, SLG, OBP, VORP, OPS, RC/27... it's the Reds' winning percentage over the last four years.

    Now, you know, I know, everyone knows, that's not his fault. (Not entirely at least.) The perception (perpetuated by many) is, however, that if Dunn could have been traded for a Jim Palmer, Mike Cuellar, or Dave McNally-type pitcher, those numbers might be better. (See Wily Mo Pena-Bronson Arroyo.) Could that have happened??? Would that have happened??? We'll never know.

    However, the original poster may be on to something here. With the last 2 first round draft picks used on OF's, could we be far away from a Dunn for ace blockbuster trade? Perhaps. Could one of those two OFs be MLB-ready by the time that happens? Perhaps.

    PS: Look at Boog's career numbers. Not bad. And accounting for possible "slippage" as mentioned in the initial post... could be where Dunn is headed.
    When all is said and done more is said than done.

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    Yay! dabvu2498's Avatar
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    Re: Dunn, Maas, and "Old Player's Skills"

    Quote Originally Posted by westofyou
    Classic old player skills can be found in

    Tom Brunansky
    Odd that you mention Brunansky. He's one of the "Similar Batters through Age 25" listed on Dunn's page at: http://www.baseball-reference.com/d/dunnad01.shtml along with:
    Darryl Strawberry (927)
    Reggie Jackson (926) *
    Jose Canseco (918)
    Troy Glaus (909)
    Tom Brunansky (902)
    Juan Gonzalez (901)
    Boog Powell (901)
    Rocky Colavito (891)
    Tony Conigliaro (890)
    Harmon Killebrew (883) *
    When all is said and done more is said than done.

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    Lark11 11BarryLarkin11's Avatar
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    Re: Dunn, Maas, and "Old Player's Skills"

    Quote Originally Posted by Rojo
    I've thought about this very thing. James' point, I think, was that "old" players don't have much in the tank atheletically, and, ergo, cannot afford much slippage before becoming worthless. Dunn, however, is much more of an athelete than guys like Maas or Ron Kittle or Ken Phelps.

    He could also be this guy:

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/k/killeha01.shtml
    Right. As you age, you are going to get a step slower, a little less agile, and your bat will slow just a bit. If you have a myriad of skills (speed, defense, contact hitting, etc) or if you have "young player's skills" then you are better equipped to fight off the effects of aging.

    Rickey Henderson can lose a step and still be very effective. Tony Gwynn can handle reduced bat speed. But, can Adam Dunn?

    I think we can agree that a key to a good batting average is the ability to make good, hard, consistent contact. Dunn is already on the bottom of the acceptability spectrum when it comes to batting average. If you are in your prime and still have difficulty with making contact, what happens with age? When age takes its toll, he'll slide even further. What happens when he can't catch up to the 94 MPH fastball? When his bat is just a hair slow and instead of a 500 foot homer, the ball pops the catchers mitt?

    What happens to Dunn's already shabby defense when he's a step slower? What happens to his batting average when his bat is just a hair slower?

    Dunn doesn't have the needed skills to offset the effects aging. I actually think Ben Grieve is the perfect example of players surviving with only "old player's skills".

    Tony Gwynn would be fine going from .330 to .310, but Dunn would go from.255 to .235.

    Dunn's margin for error is razor thin. Age or injury may really bring about a fast and early decline to a very good career.
    Last edited by 11BarryLarkin11; 06-30-2006 at 04:47 PM.

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    breath westofyou's Avatar
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    Re: Dunn, Maas, and "Old Player's Skills"

    Tony Gwynn would be fine going from .330 to .310, but Dunn would go from.255 to .235.
    or it could go the other way.
    Code:
    Gwynn
    
    	AVG   SLG  OBA   OPS
    
    1987	.370  .511  .447  .958   9.67 RC/27
    1988	.313  .415  .373  .787 	 5.67 RC/27
    
    
    Killebrew
    
    	AVG   SLG  OBA   OPS
    1961	.288  .606  .405 1.012   9.11 RC/27
    1962	.243  .545  .366  .912   6.84 RC/27


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