Adam Dunn's 400th Home Run: What Does It Mean for His Hall of Fame Chances?
Another player hit a milestone home run over the weekend. On Saturday night, Adam Dunn became the third player this season to hit his 400th career home run. And like I did with Paul Konerko and David Ortiz, this is a good time to look at Adam Dunn’s Hall of Fame chances.
Obviously, there’s the home runs. At 400, he’s already 50th on the all-time list. The only player his age or younger with more is Albert Pujols. Dunn could very easily be in the top 30 of all time when his deal with the White Sox ends after 2015.
His odds of reaching 500 home runs look rather rosy, too. Assuming he hits ten more this year (which would give him 45 total), the Bill James Career Assessment gives him a 97 percent chance to reach 500, the maximum amount it’ll assign to any outcome.
It's worth mentioning that he could return to his 2011 state, although he's playing better now so it’s probably something we can ignore until we have a reason to stop. Overall, he seems like a more likely candidate to reach the 500 club than Konerko or Ortiz; it helps that he’s only 32, four years younger than either of those two.
As I mentioned when Paul Konerko made the 400 club, even 500 home runs may not be an automatic in to future voters. So what does the rest of Adam Dunn’s case look like?
The other big hitter milestone is hits. He stands at 1,400 hits so 3,000 is likely out of the question. Assuming he finishes the season with 112 ( and with 88 so far it seems like a reasonable guess), he probably won’t finish anywhere near that. 2,000 lifetime hits isn’t out of the question, though.
Dunn just isn’t a contact hitter. His current batting average of .241 would be lowest among positional Hall members (Ray Schalk at .253 is the current lowest). A lot of the Hall electorate will probably hold that and his massive strikeout total (already 1,981 for his career) against him.
That’s a shame, because he still provides a lot of value. In twelve seasons, he already has 1,151 walks and a .372 on-base percentage, as well as a .502 slugging percentage. For a career, he could very well reach the top 100 for times on base—he already has 2,627, 746 shy of 100th place. If he finishes the year with 222 times on base, he’ll be on pace for 75th all time. There isn’t really a magic mark for times on base like there is with hits, but 75th place definitely isn’t bad.
Long story short, Dunn’s been a great hitter. But will that be enough? I don’t think so, at least not at the moment. Too many Hall voters still look at hits and home runs as the end-all, be-all for enshrining hitters. Dunn has only one of those two. Additionally, I have a feeling most BBWAA voters also continue to overestimate how bad strikeouts are for hitters, unfair or not.
The only way I can see writers not taking that stance is if a) the electorate body undergoes some changes between now and Dunn’s time on the ballot; or b) Dunn keeps going after he hits 500 home runs and lands on some ridiculous mark. He does have a 29 percent chance at 600 home runs. Maybe he can overwhelm them with an excess of power, to the point where they don’t feel the need to look at how often he got on base.
And, since he reached the mark in the same year as David Ortiz and Paul Konerko, it’s interesting to look at the three together. Right now, I think Ortiz and Konerko are both undeserving of election, and unlikely to end their careers deserving. With Dunn, I’m not so sure.
As of right now, Konerko leads in both stats that count.
Konerko: 2,145 hits, 416 home runs
Is Adam Dunn worthy of the Hall of Fame?
Ortiz: 1,861 hits, 401 home runs
Dunn: 1,400 hits, 400 home runs
However, there’s a very good case to be made that Konerko is the worst hitter of the three. He doesn’t get on base or hit for power as well as Ortiz or Dunn. OPS-plus has Big Papi in the lead with a 138 mark, followed by Dunn at 126 and Konerko at 122.
Wins above replacement (WAR) for the three is interesting as well. Fangraphs puts Ortiz first with 38.7 WAR, followed by Konerko's 30.4 and Dunn's 26.2. Right now, I would bet that Dunn retires ahead of those two. I would make that same bet in home runs, too, seeing as Dunn is almost equal to their totals with four fewer years on his odometer.
WAR is all-encompassing, too, which makes for two more interesting points. The first is that you can get negative WAR. Wipe Dunn’s inexplicable, awful 2011 from the books and he jumps up to 29.1 WAR, right on Paul Konerko’s tail. You can’t just ignore 2011, but it’s still interesting to note.
Second, fielding is included. For as bad as Ortiz and Konerko are at fielding, Dunn is worse. How much? Well, when accounting for fielding, WAR also accounts for how difficult it is to play a position. Designated hitter is easier than first base, so DH’ing takes more runs from Big Papi’s value than playing first does from Konerko’s. These two components are separated as positional and fielding. In positional runs, Dunn leads the way due to playing the outfield for so many years.
In theory, position is accounted for such that moving a player from first base to designated hitter should be an equal move—they’d be docked more runs from their total value, but the position should be that much easier to field. However, Dunn is so bad at fielding that he totally throws the adjustment off.
Had Dunn been fortunate enough to spend most of his career in the AL (like the other two) and DH, worst-case scenario, he would have lost 60 runs to his position. However, it would have saved his teams almost 130 runs, or 13 entire wins, in the field. Had Dunn been taken one pick earlier by the Twins or later by the Orioles, he would jump past Konerko in career value to roughly 32 Wins.*
*And that’s assuming the worst-case scenario of losing 60 runs to position. 50 or 40 runs could put him closer to 33 or 34.
So, how should we account for those six (or seven, or eight) wins from bad positional/drafting luck? I don’t really know. But six wins can be huge—that’s the difference between Tony Perez and Keith Hernandez or Willie Stargell and Norm Cash. If he ends up with 575 home runs and a career value closer to Cash and Perez? I might be inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Not to say that he’ll get to those marks, necessarily. I hope he does, though, because someone as interesting to watch as he is will be a fun Hall of Fame case to discuss.
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