Adam Dunn Is All That and a Bag of Chips

Ed LeiserCorrespondent IAugust 31, 2009

PHOENIX - MAY 08:  Adam Dunn #44 of the Washington Nationals waits to bat during the game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on May 8, 2009 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Nationals defeated the Diamondbacks 5-4.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Before I begin, let's compare two players. 

Player A is batting .273 with a .352 OBP and a slugging percentage of .568.  He has very good power numbers of 37 home runs and 111 RBI to go along with five stolen bases.  However, he has struck out 156 times.  Ouch.

Player B is batting .282 with a .417 OBP and a slugging percentage of .577.  His power numbers aren't as good as Player A's, but his 35 home runs and 91 RBI are certainly nothing to overlook.  He has 147 strikeouts but has walked 100 times (41 more than Player A). 

Who am I talking about?

Player A is Ryan Howard, a former MVP and a player who is often drafted too high in fantasy leagues.

Player B is Big Country Power Adam Dunn, a player who typically falls under the radar when assessing the game's great sluggers.

Dunn plays for the lowly Nationals and a lineup that doesn't feature a No. 3 hitter with a .423 OBP (like Howard's No. 3 hitter, Chase Utley). 

Dunn also doesn't have Jayson Werth and Raul Ibanez batting behind him in a murderers' row-type lineup.  Any way you slice it, Dunn's buddies, Josh Willingham and Elijah Dukes, are not Jayson Werth and Raul Ibanez. 

It is conceivable, therefore, that Dunn would have Howard's power numbers if he played in the Phillies lineup and not the Nationals.

Dunn is more valuable to his team than Howard is to the Phillies.

If Adam Dunn is out of the lineup, the Nationals become a worse team (if that's possible), but Howard's absence in the lineup only moves up Ibanez or Werth, or drops Chase Utley back a slot.  The Phillies lineup is still fierce.

Much has been made about Dunn's defense.  I admit, it's brutal.  But you can hide him at a corner spot and survive.  His bat will more than make up for it.  Or, if his bat is cold, his eye will still lead to walks and runners on base, increasing scoring chances.

The value of Dunn's on-base percentage is shamefully under-appreciated.  Dunn can have cold streaks, and he will (and has this year). 

But players that walk with Dunn's frequency (he leads the league in walks) don't get in slumps.  He is always a threat with a bat in his hand, even during a four-strikeout game. 

When Howard struggles, his value is diminished because he can't get on base as much as a player like Dunn.

I don't mean to trash Ryan Howard here.  I really like him.

I am annoyed, however, with the perception that Howard is a better player than Dunn.

In some regards, yes, Howard is better (his defense, for starters).

But in other areas (OBP, SLG, BA,) Dunn is better.  Again, Dunn plays for the worst team in baseball while Howard plays for the defending champs.

There is one other major area where Dunn excels over Howard.

It is the runs-created category.  This year, Dunn has created 112 runs for the Nationals.  If Adam Dunn occupied every slot in the Nationals lineup, they would score 9.1 runs a game, according to the stat.

Howard's 101 runs created is impressive but less than Dunn.  If Howard batted one-through-nine in the Phillies lineup, they would produce 7.2 runs per game.

Unless you have the Baltimore Orioles pitching staff, you'll win with 9.1 or 7.2 runs per game. 

But for $15 million a year, Howard should come close to doubling Dunn's numbers; he already nearly doubles Dunn's salary ($8 million).

Howard is solid as a rock.  Dunn just rides a little higher in my book.

If ESPN didn't write the book, the rest of the nation just might agree with me.