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White Sox Tue Sep 02 2014

Put It This Way: Dunn Was Not a Bum for the White Sox

Sox_200.pngThere's a great scene in the Seinfeld episode "The Pen." Jerry presents the positive side to Elaine about sleeping on a sofa bed at his parents' place in Florida. He says, "It's only for three days. Today's over and we have tomorrow. We leave on Sunday. It's one day, really." Well, when you look at it that way...

The same exercise can be done with Adam Dunn, who was traded to the Athletics Sunday, the last day before postseason rosters become official. Across Twitter, the reaction was unanimous. It was nothing personal, but fans were glad the White Sox got rid of Dunn. After signing a four year, $56 million deal before the 2011 season, Dunn was viewed as a disappointment over the next four years.

However, Dunn wasn't that much of a disappointment when you really look at it.

2011: Dunn's first year in Chicago can't be defended. He had issues with his appendix and he was one of the worst ever position players in baseball. It was amazing, even at the time, how bad he was. In the seven seasons prior to 2011, Dunn never hit less than 38 home runs and never had an OPS lower than .855; that year, he hit only 11 home runs and had an OPS .569 (and an OPS-plus of 54). All his stats were much lower than normal, except for his strikeout total of 177.

But the Sox had more problems than Dunn that year. An 88-win team in 2010, the Sox only won 79 the next season. The offense altogether scored 100 fewer runs; top players Alexei Ramirez, Paul Konerko and Alex Rios each declined in WAR by at least 1.6 (Rios went from 3.3 to -1.9, for instance); and the pitching staff as a whole was only middle-of-the-pack both years.

Dunn's output definitely made the Sox worse, but it didn't single-handedly submarine the team's playoff hopes, either.

2012: Dunn was an All-Star in 2012. This was a vintage Dunn season. He hit 41 home runs and led the league with 105 walks, making up for the 222 strikeouts and .204 batting average. As the league moved more toward the three true outcomes, Dunn cut to the chase and embraced it. Considering the switch to the American League and what comes with it (tougher competition and games at DH so he doesn't have to field), this was a good season. It helped the Sox win 85 games and nearly win the division.

2013: The '13 Sox were bad and Dunn wasn't particularly great, but he still hit 34 home runs. The total was tied for sixth-best in baseball. Dunn could still deliver with what he does best. He might have been an interesting trade deadline candidate, and his contract wasn't that bad by baseball standards, but a deal never materialized.

2014: This year Dunn has a 117 OPS-plus, which is the fourth-best output on the team. He stepped in and played first base when Jose Abreu got hurt, and also played outfield in six games against National League opponents. The tactic was justified as he hit three home runs in those contests. Dunn also pitched an inning, which set the internet on fire one August night.

One of the big misconceptions about Dunn? He actually wasn't a star when he joined the Sox. From 2001 to 2010, he was only worth 1.8 WAR per year, on average, and he only appeared in one All-Star game. In the first portion of his career, he hit a lot of home runs, he struck out a lot and he walked a lot.

That's exactly what he did with the Sox. The only difference was that he wasn't as much of a defensive liability (he had a -5.2 defensive WAR in more than 1,200 innings at 1B and OF with Washington in 2009, for example), and he didn't hit as many non-home run hits. Dunn came to the Sox and had similar enough numbers to what he had in other stops in his career.

Dunn wasn't that bad with the Sox. And sure, while 2011 was awful, the team as a unit was disappointing that year. His best year of his Sox tenure came during the only season the team had a legit playoff shot. Dunn was, roughly, the same guy with the Sox he always was his entire career.

That's one way to look at it. Jerry Seinfeld knows all about looking at a glass half-full. Later in that episode, after Elaine's back is ravaged by sleeping on the Seinfelds' pull-out sofa and the doctor says they're stuck in Florida for five more days, Jerry says, "Well today's almost over. And weekdays always go by fast. Friday we're leaving. It's like two days really. It's like a cup of coffee. It will go by like that."

 

Brule Laker / September 5, 2014 9:33 AM

As my late uncle Adolph, who saw his first Sox game in 1921 and passed away last Oct. at age 101, "Dunn wasn't a bad player; he was an awful player." More than $500,000/home run and more strikeouts that sucked the life out of the ballpark than one can count. This glass was almost empty.

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