General Manager Ken Williams backed the wrong horse in his search for a left-handed bat this offseason as Adam Dunn enters Thursday with only seven home runs and a line of .173/.308/.316. His WAR of minus-1.0 is the fourth lowest among qualified position players in the majors, and one can make the argument he is one of the worst free agent signings in the past five years.
The real question among White Sox fans and fantasy owners is whether Dunn can potentially right the ship? Some advanced statistics are encouraging, but others show that the 31-year-old may be on the down slope of his career.
Dunn's BABIP of .263, which is below his career mark of .294, shows that he has been somewhat affected by poor luck. However, his line drive rate of 20 percent is above average. His fly ball rate of 50.4 percent is tied for the highest of his career, but his 16.4 percent infield fly is also the highest of his career.
These batted ball numbers are reminiscent of his 2002 season (his worst coming into the 2011 season), but he did finish with a .249 batting average with 26 home runs. His line drive rate is higher than that season, but his HR/FB ratio of 10.4 percent is down from his 21.8 percent career rate. The power numbers are startling as his ISO has dropped .276 to .143 (career .265).
Dunn's strikeout numbers are alarming. His 43.3 percent strike rate is the highest strikeout rate in baseball and is up from 35.7 percent last season. I believe that rate might be slightly misleading, his contact rate has actually improved from 68.2 percent last season to 70.1 percent.
I believe he can cut down his strikeout rate, and in effect improve his batting average to something in the .240 to .255 range. However, there is no evidence whether he can improve his power numbers will pick up. Last season Dunn hit 23 home runs over 400 feet, and he has only hit three this season. It is possible that the DH role has gotten into his head, but it can't solely be the reason for the drop in power.
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