Or as I screamed out to Michael the Kay (after Dick Van Dick-ing over the fido-hassock)....“Adam Dunn is not ####### Dave Kingman! He’s ####### Dave Kingman with George Brett’s OBP!”
If Dunn is about to retire, we need to acknowledge his contributions to the game: He was one of the best power hitters of his generation, and a three true outcomes king.
Dunn broke into the big leagues in 2001 and raked immediately, hitting .262/.371/.578, with 19 homers in just 66 games. Twelve years later, he is sitting on a career batting average of .239, but with 436 homers (41st all time). Since that 2001 debut, Dunn has posted the 12th-best isolated slugging (slugging average minus batting average) mark among 673 qualified hitters, ahead of big-time sluggers like Larry Walker, Jason Giambi, Ryan Braun, and Frank Thomas. Now get this: In his career, Dunn has homered once in every 14.7 at-bats. That’s the ninth-best mark of all time, trailing only Mark McGwire, Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds, Jim Thome, Ryan Howard, Ralph Kiner, Harmon Killebrew, and Sammy Sosa.
Home runs, under normal circumstances, are exciting. But if Dunn’s swats seem to put announcers to sleep, blame it on his size, and his personality. Recruited to play quarterback at the University of Texas, Dunn opted for baseball instead when the Reds made him the 50th overall pick in the 1998 draft. Dunn wasn’t only enormous by baseball standards … he was also gigantic compared to other quarterbacks (not named Jared Lorenzen). When Ken Griffey Jr. used to wallop pitches over the wall, everyone oohed and aahed at his picture-perfect swing. When Dunn does it, it’s “Oh hey, that huge guy just hit another one. What’s on Ion tonight?” Throw in Dunn’s seemingly laconic demeanor (to outsiders anyway) and you have a player who’s not inspiring love poems any time soon.
...So sure, the man nicknamed “Big Donkey” for his lack of speed may not have been wildly entertaining by traditional measures. But if this it for Dunn, we should celebrate his planet-denting power, and even his status as a three true outcomes first-ballot Hall of Famer. More than a decade after Moneyball, the negative impact of hitter strikeouts remains overrated (in some circles), while walks are still underrated — and so is Dunn. His style of play has never been pretty. But for most of his career, it’s been pretty damn effective.