Spring Training 2012: How Adam Dunn's Spring Success Should Be Viewed

Tom Firme@TFirmeAnalyst IIMarch 12, 2012

CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 20: Designated hitter Adam Dunn #32 of the Chicago White Sox hits an RBI double during the second inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field on September 20, 2011 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Jason Miller/Getty Images

Adam Dunn has come alive for the Chicago White Sox in the first several spring training games. He's put the ball out of the park, taken walks and hasn't caused himself many unnecessary outs. This is encouraging for Dunn, whose first year with the White Sox went terribly awry.

Dunn hammered the ball a couple of times on Thursday against the Texas Rangers. He hit a shot out of the park, exciting White Sox fans at the thought that Dunn might figure out how to slug it off American League pitching after all. He also hit a double and finished with four RBI on the game.

In the first two spring training games, Dunn showed a good amount of plate discipline. One of his two plate appearances in the spring opener against the Los Angeles Dodgers was a walk and both in the next game were walks.

That was a great sign for a player who typically beefs up his on-base percentage by walking 100 times in a season.

Dunn has seemed especially careful not to strike out this spring, as he has only one strikeout so far, which he took in the fifth game of spring training on Saturday. That's another good sign for Dunn, who has struck out more than 125 times in each of the last 10 seasons.

Dunn has reached base safely in five of six games to this point.

White Sox fans must be wondering what this means for "The Big Donkey."

One can hardly tell how this might translate into the regular season. He might start out hitting hard like he did last season, only to fall into an interminable slump. Hitting rates from the preseason aren't trustworthy. Also, spring training home runs aren't anything to project into the regular season.

At the very least, White Sox fans can be happy that he's hit a home run by now. If he hadn't, White Sox fans would have had good reason to be a bit worried.

Meanwhile, Dunn's plate discipline is impressive. He usually rips wild in spring training. In each of the past six years, Dunn's best strikeout rate is once every 4.2 at bats. In the other five, he struck out in more than a quarter of his at-bats. With only one in 11 at-bats thus far, Dunn looks extra picky at the plate.

If he keeps it up, he may be able to avoid striking out 100 times for the first time since his rookie year.

His ability to take walks has been nice. Dunn has taken between six and 11 walks in the previous six spring tours. If he keeps up the patience at the plate, Dunn could easily outdo those figures.

A patient spring could lead to a good amount of patience in the regular season. The White Sox, which lack players who take many walks, would surely like to see Dunn take 100 walks this season like he did seven times in eight years from 2002 to 2009.

While one can't take too much from Dunn's actual hits and home runs, his discipline at the plate deserves examination. White Sox fans should watch how Dunn picks his pitches and whether he continues to take walks and avoid strikeouts. Patience at the plate is one thing that could carry over for hitters from spring training to the regular season.

If Dunn maintains his plate discipline, the White Sox could have a guy who posts an on-base percentage beyond their wildest dreams.