Adam Dunn’s, Paul Konerko’s offensive struggles costing White Sox dearly
BY JOHN GROCHOWSKI For Sun-Times Media May 20, 2013 10:23PM
The White Sox's Adam Dunn strikes out during the fourth inning at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, Ill., on Thursday, April 4, 2013. | Andrew A. Nelles~Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 3, 2013 6:28PM
First base and designated hitter are positions at which you’d expect big offensive contributions. For the most part, American League Central teams are getting just that.
To use Bill James’ runs created calculation, the Tigers are getting 7.3 runs created per 27 outs from Prince Fielder. That means a lineup of nine Fielders would average about 7.3 runs per game, far above the 4.48 runs AL teams are averaging this season. Around the rest of the division, there’s the Twins’ Justin Morneau (5.0), the Indians’ Nick Swisher (6.7) and Mark Reynolds (7.0) and the Royals’ Eric Hosmer (3.8), with only Hosmer providing below-average offense.
Designated hitter has been weaker, with the Royals’ Billy Butler (5.8), the Twins’ Ryan Doumit (3.6) and the Tigers’ Victor Martinez (2.4). The Indians have used multiple DHs, with Jason Giambi at 3.1 in only 58 plate appearances.
One team in the division has had subpar production from both positions. The White Sox’ Adam Dunn (3.6) and Paul Konerko (3.2) have divided time at first and DH, and both have struggled mightily. Offensive winning percentage (another sabermetric stat) tells us that, given a team with average pitching and defense, an offense made up of nine Dunns would have a winning percentage of about .378 and one with nine Konerkos would have a winning percentage of .326. That’s something no one wants to see at positions expected to bring production.
Dunn has been a special case for years, and that he is prone to low batting averages and strikes out at legendary levels is hardly news. A low-batting average, high-strikeout hitter still can add offensive value with enough power and walks. Dunn did just that last season, when he hit .204 with a major-league-high 222 strikeouts. His 105 walks pulled his on-base percentage up to .333, and with 40 home runs fueling a .468 slugging percentage, his OPS was a respectable .800.
That translates to 5.5 runs created per 27 outs and a .579 offensive winning percentage in 2012. Those aren’t superstar numbers, but they’re serviceable and worthy of a spot in the lineup.
So far this season, Dunn has walked only 16 times, which projects into the mid-60s if he approaches the 659 plate appearances he had in 2012. That’s nowhere near enough to salvage a respectable on-base percentage out of his .169 batting average. With an on-base percentage of only .263, his OPS is .671, a grim figure for anyone who’s not a Gold Glove catcher or a shortstop.
Going into this season, Dunn had 402 homers and, by the ‘‘favorite toy’’ calculation, was listed with a 91 percent chance
of reaching 500. Konerko, who had 422 homers through last season, was listed with a 65 percent chance.
Dunn has been homering enough to keep his percentage above 90, but he needs about three more seasons as a regular to reach the target, and a .378 offensive winning percentage won’t keep a first baseman/DH in the lineup that long.
In baseball, as in anything else involving human performance, nothing is transformed from ‘‘near-lock’’ to ‘‘lock’’ until it’s done.