November 24, 2006

Let’s Hold Dunn — for Now (Big Red Mechanic)

If Gary Matthews Jr, age 32, a career .263 hitter with little power or speed and a strikeout to walk ratio of approx. 2 to 1 is worth a whopping 5 year contract for 50 million, Adam Dunn is certainly a bargain for the Reds despite his glaring shortcomings.

Coming off a diappointing .239 season with 194 strikeouts and a slew of fielding miscues, it is safe to say that Adam Dunn's stock has never been lower. And yet he is a lock to hit 40+ home runs again. Is there really anywhere but up as far as his batting average is concerned? You have to give the new batting coach, Brook jacoby, an opportunity to give Dunner some new tips, advice, perspective, philosophy -- whatever it is those guys do to earn their salary.

I believe Krivsky has every intention of waiting on Dunn, although I wouldn't be shocked if he puts out feelers just to see what the market might be offering for the Big Donkey. Unless an offer is simply to good to resist, I expect him to hold pat. Let us not forgot that Dunn was his signing, one of his very first acts as GM. It's fine and good, to dump your predecessors long term contracts (LaRue) but when you start second-guessing yourself that is another matter, and I don't expect Krivsky to hit the panic button just yet.

Dunn's power is legendary. He will be just 27 years old in 2007 and already has 198 career home runs. If he hits 40 home runs for 10 more seasons, he is right around 600 and would still just be 37 years old. A couple of big years in there and assuming he can play into his 40s and your looking at a top 5 all-time home run hitter. Of course he would probably have the most strikeouots in history as well. The point is he very well might crack his way into the hall-of-fame by sheer foce of brute power. He certainly has a much much greater chance than Gary Matthews, Jr. and they are making the same salary right now.

What I would strongly recommend to all parties involved, is that Dunn be given agility and dexterity exercises from here on out. Nothing wrong with his hand-eye coordination, I am referring to his movement. He needs to look and act lighter on his feet. There must be training drills for this sort of thing, and now would be the time to explore those options. Have him tip toe around pylons and run through those tires and all of that.

I can't tell you how many times I saw Dunn pursue a ball in the outfield to only come up just inches short of reaching it. Incredibly frustrating to witness, and the resulting hits were backbreakers that went for doubles and triples. If runners were on base they scored easily. We know Dunn can't go airborne but if he can get better jumps and get his weight moving at the correct angle from the very beginning of the play, maybe some of those extrabase hits become huge rally-snuffing outs. Part of it must be confidence (lack of) because let's face it after grossly misplaying 3 or 4 balls on opening day he probably became much more tentative in his pursuit. Maybe I am wrong about that, I don't know firsthand what the guy is thinking, but like his batting average, his fielding and range can only get better, not worse, because right now its at rock-bottom. There's only one way left to go and that is up.

Right now Dunn is pretty much the key to this team. He bats in the heart of the order and he is in his prime and next to Griffey he absorbs the most salary. As Griffey's star fades, Dunn must be the one to pick up the power slack. He is at an absolute critical juncture as far as his tenure with the Reds is concerned. A big year showing improvement in his weak areas and perhaps he stays for the longhaul. One more season like the last one and he might be traded for middle relievers and prospects in a tragic salary dump. It can go either way, and that will be the major storyline for this season.

4 comments to “Let’s Hold Dunn — for Now (Big Red Mechanic)”

  1. Red Hot Mama says:

    Good analysis, smartelf. I agree that Dunn is probably more valuable to the Reds than to anyone else right now. I just hope that Krivsky can see that.

  2. KC2HMZ says:

    In thinking about this subject – and I’m not going to say whether I think Krivsky should trade Dunn or not – I keep coming back to two factors.

    Number one, Krivsky (who came from the Twins, the team that non-tendered Big Papi in 2002 to earn the undying gratitude of Red Sox nation) is a pitching-and-defense guy. Given Dunn’s skill set, $10.5 million in 2007 with a $13 million club option for 2008 is a lot of money for a designated hitter, considering that this is the National League. And we’ve already seen that Krivsky isn’t afraid to trade away power hitters (Exhibit A: Wily Mo Pena. Exhibit B: Austin Kearns). So it would not surprise me much to see Dunn traded if Krivsky can get in return – a bat, and an arm for the rotation.

    Number two, Dunn’s trade value is probably relatively low right now, and when Krivsky signed Dunn to his new contract he said of Adam, “He combines that awesome raw power with a very selective hitting approach. He is some kind of force in the middle of the order. We’re lucky to have him.”

    That tells me that Krivsky understands something about Dunn that many casual fans probably don’t. Dunn has a long, looping swing with holes in in, and there are a lot of pitches he simply can’t hit. Dunn knows it, so when he sees a pitch he knows he can’t hit, he lets it go by. Adam will stand there all day waiting for the pitcher to make a mistake and throw him a pitch he *can* hit well.

    If Dunn gets his mistake pitch, the result will bring to mind what George Brett once said of a ball he saw Reggie Jackson hit: “Anything that goes that far in the air ought to have a stewardess on it.”

    That’s why Dunn doesn’t hit many sac flies – his sac flies tend to end up in the cheap seats. Or in the Ohio River!

    If Dunn doesn’t get his pitch, he either walks or strikes out, because he gets so deep in the count and runs out of chances to wait for his pitch.

    So next time somebody asks how come a good hitter like Dunn can strike out so much, now you can tell ’em. 🙂

    I think you can win with a guy like Dunn in your lineup. I can remember when the Cardinals had a lineup that was basically seven leadoff hitters and Jack Clark and they won, and Dunn reminds me of Clark a lot. Or Jim Thome. Same selective approach, same results – lots of walks, lots of strikeouts, and lots of HRs where the opposing outfielders don’t even bother with a courtesy chase.

    So it also wouldn’t surprise me if Dunn does not get traded.


  3. smartelf says:

    I agree with your assessment… BUT the Reds don’t protect Dunn properly. No pitcher worth his salt will make a mistake to him, he’ll just pitch around him and take his chances with the next guy who in recent times was rookie Encarnacion, or free swinging Wily Mo, or even Joe Randa. Nothing to invoke fear to force the pitcher to throw something in the black. Dunn’s numbers are terrible because the pitcher’s will dabble with the grey zone, and there is a lot of it because Dunn is so large and refuses to shrink the zone. When Dunn batted second last year his average climbed to its highest pinnacle: the low 260s but at the same time Griffey sank to his lowest level: low 240s. That tells me pitchers are not afraid of anyone besides those 2 guys. If Encarnacion can step it up a notch this year maybe things will be different… otherwise I foresee more of the same. The Giants were able to get away with not protecting Bonds all those years because the guy has the capability of hitting anything on the border of the strikezone… so they either had to walk him intentionally or take their chances by throwing borderline strikes. With Dunn, since he has a slew of pitches he can’t hit, that is not an issue. Also, do we really need Dunn’s bat if all he does is hit mistake pitches? Our problems offensively are against good pitchers, ones that won’t make mistakes. Dunn helps us beat up bad pitchers, but we very well might do that without his help.

    Nontheless, if we can’t get value in return we need to build up his value by giving him more chances and maybe batting him in front of Griffey. Otherwise Dunn needs to adapt and learn to fouol borderline pitches off and better protect the borderline areas of the strikezone. He’s only 27, certainly he can learn to create a protective swing for certain situations. Otherwise we have no use for him, especially since he is a defensive liability.

  4. KC2HMZ says:

    That’s another excellent point you made about Dunn – actually, two of them. His strike zone is probably bigger than Ryan Freel. And they definitely need to have someone of consequence batting behind Dunn. With Bonds or Pujols, who can hit just about any pitch well, you can get away with it, but with a guy like Dunn or Thome they’re just going to paint the corners and let him get himself out, unless you have a guy in the on-deck circle who’s going to make them pay for it.

    Unless somebody blows Krivsky away with an offer for Dunn, he probably gets a year to work with Jacoby and see if his game can be taken to the next level. If not, they’ll do what they can this year with the usual 40 HR, 100 walks, 100 runs scored – and in 2008 he’ll be in the AL, DH’ing for somebody who plays in a hitters park.