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Thread: The Decline of Adam Dunn

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    Lark11 11BarryLarkin11's Avatar
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    The Decline of Adam Dunn

    Well, I think it's time to seriously worry about Adam Dunn. I wanted to trade Dunn in the offseason, because I subscribe to the theory that young players who survive solely on Old Player Skills (Power and Patience) tend to peak and decline earlier than young players who utilize a myriad of skills. Intuitively makes sense, as if you start at the bottom of the acceptable spectrum for speed and defense, then when you lose a step due to age you immediately fall below the acceptable floor for a Major Leaguer player. Accordingly, it's going to be much easier for Jose Reyes to continue to be successful when he loses a step, then it is for Adam Dunn.

    I still believe that this is a crucial year for Dunn's career, as if he declines yet again then I think it's obvious that he's on the down slope of his career. He really needs a bounce back season, but at this point I'm not encouraged.

    At this point, I think it's possible that Dunn peaked in 2004 and is declining. If he is in decline, then he may have lost a bit of bat speed. And, seeing his production decline, I think he has begun to change his approach in an attempt to offset the slower bat speed.

    Year: BA/OBP/SLG/OPS

    2004: .266/.388/.569/.957

    2005: .247/.387/.540/.927

    2006: .234/.365/.490/.855

    2007: .269/.360/.474/.834

    Both his on base skills and his power have been in decline.

    Year: IsoOBP_AB/HR_BB/PA_#P/PA

    2004: .122____12.3__.159__4.24

    2005: .140____13.6__.170__4.24

    2006: .131____14.0__.164__4.18

    2007: .091____19.5__.124__4.03

    Oddly enough, Dunn's power and patience are decreasing. His IsoOBP (OBP-BA), BB/PA (Walk Per Plate Appearance), and Pitches Seen Per Plate Appearance have all declined since 2004. He's getting less patient at the plate.

    Not to mention, Dunn's Homerun per AB rate has increased, which means he is hitting homers with less frequency. Where did the power go??? In 2004, he hit a homer once every 12.3 ABs, but in 2007 he is up to one homer every 19.5 ABs.

    Now granted, 2007 has a long way to go, but I'm not overly impressed with what I've seen from Dunn thus far. We've heard a lot about Dunn's new physique and the approach Brook Jacoby helped him develop at the plate. Thus far, I don't think the results are very encouraging. It seems like Dunn is getting more aggressive in an attempt to increase his batting average, but in doing so he's losing the power and patience that make him a special hitter.

    There is a great new feature at BaseballReference that provides all the pitch data for each player and Adam Dunn's is fairly interesting. It provides clues to the type of approach that Dunn is using in each At Bat.

    If Dunn's bat is slowing down, then I'd expect him to change his approach in certain ways. I'd expect him to be more aggressive and swing more often. If he''s being patient and forcing the pitcher to come into him to give him a pitch he can drive, but then can't pound that pitch then I would expect him to swing more often and expand his strike zone.

    Whether it's because of a slowing bat or a new approach, that seems to be what Dunn is doing. Here's a breakdown of Dunn's ABs by pitches.

    Year: % of Strikes that were Called /// % of Strikes that were Swinging

    2004: 31% / 19%

    2005: 31% / 19%

    2006: 29% / 22%

    2007: 28% / 24%

    He is taking fewer called strikes (31% --> 28%) and getting more swinging strikes (19% --> 24%). So, despite the complaints about Dunn not swinging often enough, he's actually swinging much more often.

    Year: % of All Pitches Swung At / % of Times Contact made when Swinging

    2004: 39% / 72%

    2005: 39% / 73%

    2006: 40% / 70%

    2007: 42% / 66%

    Dunn is swinging at more pitches (39% --> 42%), but making contact much less frequently (72%-->66%). And, sadly, his new approach isn't helping him reduce his strikeout rate. He is putting himself in fewer good hitting counts, because he is getting more aggressive. He seems to be flailing about in an attempt to make up for his declining production.

    Year: Strike Outs per AB

    2004: 2.9

    2005: 3.2

    2006: 2.9

    2007: 2.8

    He's also swinging at more first pitches than in years past:

    Year: % of Time Swinging at First Pitch of PA

    2004: 28%

    2005: 25%

    2006: 28%

    2007: 30%

    So, again, he's getting more aggressive and moving the conclusion of the At Bat up earlier in the count. However, this is the opposite approach to what made him so dangerous. His patience and his power are what gives Dunn his value, so if the new approach is taking him away from his strengths, then you have to wonder if it's worth it.

    It seems like the "new Adam Dunn" has managed to increase his average, but he is seeing a decline in plate discipline, power, and strikeouts. And, if the strikeouts are increasing, then it seems unlikely that he'll be able to maintain any gains in batting average.

    To me, it seems that if Dunn has to start swinging more often because his production is in decline, then it's the beginning of the end. If he can't wait for his pitch and crush it when he gets it, then he's not going to be a very valuable player. To me, it seems like Dunn is at the absolute bottom of the acceptable spectrum for making contact. If his contact rate declines even a little bit, then he may cease to be an effective ballplayer and he lacks any other baseball skills to offset the decrease.

    Dunn seems to be trying to force a conclusion earlier in the AB in the name of "being more aggressive", which could reduce strikeouts, but will also likely decrease his power and walk rate. Whether it's just a new approach or an attempt to make up for a slowing bat, something is changing his approach. And, given his limited skill set, any drastic change in approach at the plate seems ill advised, as he won't be able to cover up a decline in production by excelling in other facets of the game. Given his new approach, Dunn's strengths are diminishing and his weaknesses aren't improving enough to offset the decline.

    Dunn may be able to increase his batting average, but if it comes at the cost of his power and patience, then the price is just too high. Dunn's value comes from his massive power and his ability to work deep in the count.

    It's still early in 2007, so maybe a larger sample size will see his production regress back to the mean, but Dunn needs to take a big step forward this year, not take a step backward or even maintain his 2006 level of production. If he declines again this year, then this may be the beginning of the end for Dunn.
    Last edited by 11BarryLarkin11; 04-27-2007 at 03:28 AM.

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    Bread Gloves Razor Shines's Avatar
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    Re: The Decline of Adam Dunn

    I have a hard time believing his bat is already slowing down that much, or at all. I suppose it is possible though.

    As far as his new approach, I completely agree. I've been saying it since he was killing the ball in the spring. When he's on his average will go up, but with this new aggressiveness his slumps are going to horrific. In the past his slumps weren't too bad because at least he was still walking. I think the most reason that his swing and miss rate has gone up is because he's swinging at a lot of garbage right now. I don't think it's because his bat has slowed down. But you could be right. Good post overall.

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    The Big Dog mth123's Avatar
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    Re: The Decline of Adam Dunn

    Quote Originally Posted by 11BarryLarkin11 View Post
    Now granted, 2007 has a long way to go, but I'm not overly impressed with what I've seen from Dunn thus far. We've heard a lot about Dunn's new physique and the approach Brook Jacoby helped him develop at the plate. Thus far, I don't think the results are very encouraging. It seems like Dunn is getting more aggressive in an attempt to increase his batting average, but in doing so he's losing the power and patience that make him a special hitter.
    Good post. The paragraph above is the entire thing IMO. The part in bold at the end above especially (I added the bold).

    Too many people are saying that Dunn needs to swing at more pitches earlier in the count, and unfortunately Dunn seems to have been listening to some of them. When Dunn was at his best, he was ultra selective. He'd get deep into counts, get a lot of walks, and give the pitcher a chance to make a mistake that he could blast. The side effect was that he would fall behind in the count and strike out often.

    Dunn's critics are off base in my mind. I think of Dunn's batting woes like a disease. The medicine to cure that disease is patience and waiting for his pitch. A side effect of that medicine is a lot of K's. Now the patient can stop taking the medicine to try to get rid of the K's, but if he doesn't take the medicine, the disease will get worse (as it has). The only exception in this case, is that the side effects don't really go away. Instead of getting behind in the count from being patient, he's getting behind in the count from swinging at pitches he can't handle and either missing or sending them foul. He still ends up behind in the count with frequent Ks. Its just now that when he does put the ball in play, it is frequently with less solid contact.

    If Adam Dunn has a high OBP in the .380 range and a high slugging percentage in the .500 range with 40 HR and near 100 Runs and 100 RBI, I really don't care if the rest of his ABs are GOs, FOs or Ks. I just want him to swing at pitches he can hit. This type of hitting approach is as old as the game is long. In our world of over-analyzing everything and having stats for everything, the message gets mixed up. In the old days they simply said "pick a good one" and that was the extent of the thinking. That is really all Dunn was doing when successful.

    Dunn needs to stop listening to everybody and do what he was doing when it was working.
    Last edited by mth123; 04-27-2007 at 05:50 AM.
    "All I can tell them is pick a good one and sock it." --BABE RUTH

    Having better players makes "the right time" or "the big hit" happen a lot more often. PLUS PLUS

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    First Time Caller SunDeck's Avatar
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    Re: The Decline of Adam Dunn

    Great post and very interesting. The thing that frustrated me about Dunn was not necessarily strikeouts, but the called third strike outs with RISP. It could be that it was not as much of a phenomenon as I thought it was, but nevertheless Dunn always seemed to me like a guy who didn't understand that there were some times at the plate when he simply needed to be more aggressive. So now he is more aggressive, but according to 11BarryLarkin11's post, he may still be struggling to understand when to be patient and when to be aggressive. To me, Dunn has always seemed to be an extraordinary athlete who just happened to fall into baseball and it is not very surprising to me that he struggles with the particular problem of plate discipline. Josh Hamilton, on the other hand, who appears to have been born and bred into baseball, seems to "get it" intuitively. It helps when you have been surrounded by the game for your entire life, I suppose.
    The up side to Dunn is that he has tremendous timing and power. I am hoping that he can integrate his new style with his old habits to become more of a real batsman rather than a big guy with a stick. What is needed from him is not a phenomenal average, but rather run production, hard hit balls and bases.
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    Redsmetz redsmetz's Avatar
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    Re: The Decline of Adam Dunn

    Appropos cartoon in this week's City Beat by Jerry Dowling

    I don't know that I agree that Dunn is declining, but I'd love for him to turn it on (but then we could say that about half of our lineup at the moment.


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    Re: The Decline of Adam Dunn

    I think it's all mental with Dunn...give him more time. In any event, he's ten times better defensively, which is a big help.
    "Don't trust any statistics you did not fake yourself."--Winston Churchill

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    Churlish Johnny Footstool's Avatar
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    Re: The Decline of Adam Dunn

    So it looks like Dunn's much-publicized attempts to reduce his strikeouts have resulted in a decrease in both power and BBs.

    Why didn't anybody warn us that this might happen?
    "I prefer books and movies where the conflict isn't of the extreme cannibal apocalypse variety I guess." Redsfaithful

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    Box of Frogs edabbs44's Avatar
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    Re: The Decline of Adam Dunn

    Quote Originally Posted by Johnny Footstool View Post
    So it looks like Dunn's much-publicized attempts to reduce his strikeouts have resulted in a decrease in both power and BBs.

    Why didn't anybody warn us that this might happen?
    OPS 2006: .855
    OPS 2007: .834

    Not a HUGE difference.

    Also, his walk ratio is off slightly from last year. If he walked 3-4 more times this season he'd be right in line with 2006. That's one walk per week.

    The difference is from 2004 to 2006-2007. Let's not nitpick what Jacoby tried to do with him this season. He was already sliding downward before Jacoby got here.

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    Re: The Decline of Adam Dunn

    Is he using those pink bats yet?
    HUBBA A man who knows everything,just can't remember it all at one time.

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    Re: The Decline of Adam Dunn

    At this point, I think it's possible that Dunn peaked in 2004 and is declining.
    As I pointed out at the time, Adam Dunn may well have peaked in 2004, that does not mean he isn't a valuable guy.

    I'm not sure if Dunn's current woes are caused by a change at the plate or if there is a lingering injury issue with his back or if the two things are confounded. He looks terrible at the plate lately. Even more lost than he usually looks when things go south on him.

    Very Good post btw.
    "Even a bad day at the ballpark beats the snot out of most other good days. I'll take my scorecard and pencil and beer and hot dog and rage at the dips and cheer at the highs, but I'm not ever going to stop loving this game and this team and nobody will ever take that away from me." Roy Tucker October 2010

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    Re: The Decline of Adam Dunn

    Quote Originally Posted by Johnny Footstool View Post
    So it looks like Dunn's much-publicized attempts to reduce his strikeouts have resulted in a decrease in both power and BBs.

    Why didn't anybody warn us that this might happen?

    Please. Last year Dunn's strikeouts remained at their normal, astronomical number, yet his production dropped from prior years. Dunn's production decline in recent years has not been because of reducing strikeouts.

    What I love about these threads is how some people think that it is the team/manager/batting coaches that are causing Dunn's problems. Dunn is a hitter with a huge strike zone and a long swing. He also has prodigious power and the ability to take a walk. The result is a guy who has clear strengths and weaknesses.

    As the years have passed and pitchers have become accustomed to Dunn, they have figured out how to take advantage of these strengths and weaknesses. It is fine that the Reds are trying to counteract this by making improvements. If they don't work, they will be abandoned.

    Meanwhile, the key issue remains the same: is this player worth $13.5 million for next year. Hopefully, he will have a great year and prove that he is.

    Good initial post by 11 Larkin, by the way.
    Last edited by Kc61; 04-27-2007 at 11:41 AM.

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    breath westofyou's Avatar
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    Re: The Decline of Adam Dunn

    yet his production dropped from prior years. Dunn's production decline in recent years has not been because of reducing strikeouts.
    I was listening to Seattle talk radio yesterday after the M's game, they were discussing Richie Sexson, if I substituted Dunn's name for Sexson the discussion would be the same I hear day in a day out about Dunn.

    Shortening swing with 2 strikes (he won't) walks and low BA, high K numbers, not enough RBI's etc...

    Eventually the host replies... "That's his game, that's just Richie, that's what he does." he then quotes Frank Howard (while indicating that Richie is a lot like Frank)
    "The bat ain't dangerous if it's not moving."
    Thus implying that a big swing is preferable to do the most damage.


    Code:
    AVERAGE vs. the league average displayed only--not a sorting criteria
    SECONDARY AVERAGE vs. the league average displayed only--not a sorting criteria
    RUNS CREATED/GAME vs. the league average displayed only--not a sorting criteria
    
    OPS                             OPS      OBA      SLG      AVG      SEC     RC/G    
    1    Adam Dunn                  .892     .380     .513    -.024     .204     1.94   
    2    Richie Sexson              .877     .350     .526    -.001     .096     1.04

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    Stat Wanker Hodiernus RedsManRick's Avatar
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    Re: The Decline of Adam Dunn

    I agree in principal with your assessment on the aging of players like Dunn, WoY, but think Dunn's case as of today is one of approach (as you go on to discuss), not age. I also agree that this is why I'd shy away from a contract that ties Dunn up in to his 30's. It's tough trying to think of guys who are comps in terms of physical stature, but some bigger guys with similar skill sets are Cecil Fielder, Kevin Mitchell, and Bobby Bonilla. None of them are great comps, but none of the aged very gracefully either.

    What bugs me the most is the "homers -> RBI -> middle of the order" equation. It's just wrong as far as I'm concerned. A homer always scores the batter, so batting order is irrelevant for that RBI. Any extra base hit usually clears the bases. So for the sake of actually driving in runs, a doubles hitter is just as "productive" a clean-up hitter as a home run guy. Give me a Soriano with 85 XBH but who's not going to create as many opportunities for the guys behind him in that spot. What matters more in that 4th or 5th spot with men on base is the ability to put the ball in play in the first place. This is simply something Dunn isn't very good at.

    As you point out, Dunn simply can't put the ball in play with great frequency without costing himself walks and power in the process. Yes, Dunn would be a more productive hitter if he hit .300 while walking 15% of the time and hitting 50 homers. But you can't simply choose to have him add a skill set that he clearly doesn't have. They wouldn't tell a good contact, poor power guy like Hopper to start trying to drive the ball to get his SLG up, so why do they push Dunn to increase his BA at the expense of his OBP and SLG? Likely because they don't properly value those stats in relative terms and they think that they can have their cake and eat it too.

    Yes, it's early in the season. But the only thing more frustrating that seeing Dunn walk with a guy on 3rd base is seeing him ground out weakly to 2B on a 3-1 count with the bases empty.
    Games are won on run differential -- scoring more than your opponent. Runs are runs, scored or prevented they all count the same. Worry about scoring more and allowing fewer, not which positions contribute to which side of the equation or how "consistent" you are at your current level of performance.

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    Re: The Decline of Adam Dunn

    Quote Originally Posted by Johnny Footstool View Post
    So it looks like Dunn's much-publicized attempts to reduce his strikeouts have resulted in a decrease in both power and BBs.
    Yeah, and it hasn't done a whole lot for his strikeout total either. He currently leads the Majors and has a two-K advantage over the second place guy, Mike Cameron, who has about 10 less ABs.

    Those are some interesting stats, 11BarryLarkin11. I think they'll be even more prominent at year's end; the only reason they're not more so right now is because AD had the luckiest week of his life to begin the season. It is my belief that both Dunner and KGJ are a waste of payroll and space in the OF.

    That's not to say I don't like them. I think they're pretty good clubhouse guys and both obviously have a huge upside. But let's face facts: if we had to do it all over again, who in their right mind would take these guys again?? Dunn strikes out way too much. Griff is injured every other day and can't seem to find it in him to run to firstbase or "leg out" a double on a blast off the wall. And neither can play defense. It'll be a huge relief when we get those contracts and players off the payroll.
    Here's to another record-breaking season from Adam Dunn ...another 40 homeruns (all coming with nothing on the line) and 200 Ks! We Want King Jay!!

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    Re: The Decline of Adam Dunn

    Quote Originally Posted by RedsManRick View Post


    As you point out, Dunn simply can't put the ball in play with great frequency without costing himself walks and power in the process. Yes, Dunn would be a more productive hitter if he hit .300 while walking 15% of the time and hitting 50 homers. But you can't simply choose to have him add a skill set that he clearly doesn't have. They wouldn't tell a good contact, poor power guy like Hopper to start trying to drive the ball to get his SLG up, so why do they push Dunn to increase his BA at the expense of his OBP and SLG? Likely because they don't properly value those stats in relative terms and they think that they can have their cake and eat it too.
    This is great, especially the bolded part.


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