Adam Dunn doesn’t like coming out of games early, and he had a meeting on Thursday with manager Pete Mackanin about it:

Several times, including the previous three games vs. Atlanta, Dunn had been lifted during the late innings for Norris Hopper in left field for defensive purposes. In Tuesday’s game, Cincinnati had a six-run lead in the seventh inning.

The meeting was viewed as entirely positive.

“It was a great conversation,” Mackanin said. “At least he expressed it. Every manager loves players that don’t want to come out of the game. He didn’t come in complaining. He was expressing that he didn’t like coming out. It was kind of a ‘get it off your chest’ good. He’s fine with everything.”

Although a prolific home run hitter, Dunn is considered below average defensively.

“I understand a lot of situations. I’ve got it. I’m not dumb,” Dunn said. “We just talked about some situations. [In a] one-run game, I’ve got it. Sometimes, though, in the seventh inning, there’s a lot of game left.”

Indeed. I’m so sick of this nonsense of pulling Dunn out of games early. I understand the theory behind it, and if this team had a better bullpen, I might not complain about it.

But how many times this season has Dunn been removed for defensive purposes, only to see this bullpen give up the lead…and we’re stuck with Norris Hopper or Ryan Freel for the rest of the game. It’s insanity. With such a terrible bullpen, the odds are good that the Reds will need Dunn’s bat in the late innings. Don’t bother telling that to the Reds on-field staff, though.

And if anyone thought things would change when the last manager was fired, that’s called wishful thinking. There is plenty of evidence that there isn’t an inch of difference between Mackanin and Jerry Narron. Narron just spoke with more of an accent. Otherwise, they’re the same guy.

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Blame Chad for creating this mess. Chad launched Redleg Nation in February 2005, and has been writing about the Reds ever since. His first book, "The Big 50: The Men and Moments That Made the Cincinnati Reds" is now available in bookstores and online, at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and wherever fine books are sold. You can also find Chad's musings about the Cincinnati Reds in the pages of Cincinnati Magazine. You can email Chad at

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30 Responses

  1. Matt W

    “and we’re stuck with Norris Hopper or Ryan Freel for the rest of the game.”

    Freel delivered for the team yesterday

  2. CG Hudson

    I’ve been having all sorts of nasty Bob Boone flashbacks over this! Having witnessed the 15-inning Braves game in person on Wednesday, the defensive specialist Hopper misplayed two balls off the wall allowing an extra base each time. That guy has no business being on the roster much less taking Dunn’s spot on the field.

  3. Chad

    Freel delivered for the team yesterday

    And screwed things up the day before. You can’t base these decisions on what happens in one game.

    I like Freel as a player. But if you ask me who I want up in the late innings of a close game, Freel or Dunn, there’s not even a question.

  4. Chad

    CG Hudson has hit on another reason why this is a dumb strategy, usually. Norris Hopper is NOT a good defensive player.

    Yeah, he’s faster than Dunn, but how many times this season have we seen Hopper misplay balls or miss the cutoff man, giving the other team extra bases.

    And let’s not forget that Dunn’s defense isn’t that bad this year. Much improved over last year, certainly (he looked awful out there last year).

  5. Bill

    In addition to the fact that what are the odds of that one player (being a position that has relatively few balls hit to it) being given a tough play in a close game compared to the odds of needing a hit from someone hitting in the 4-5 spot?

  6. Sultan of Swaff

    If this is the worst thing that’s gonna happen to Dunn in a Red’s uniform, he should consider himself a lucky man. To my knowledge, this is the first time he’s ever been held accountable for his sucking defense, accountable to the point that it takes away from something he cares about—hitting. I say good. Yes, criticize his replacement and the guy who put him there as a game strategy, but embrace the message that was sent, regardless of the in-game consequences in a lost season. It likely won’t have the intended results and should’ve been done years ago, but it speaks volumes about not having two sets of rules for your stars and your regulars. EdE is smiling somewhere.

  7. DevilsAdvocate

    I think it’s disturbing that some are looking at this as a punishment of Dunn, a disciplinary measure of some kind. It isn’t – it’s billed as a micro-level maneuver that will help the Reds win. The counterpoint is that removing Dunn for defensive purposes in a game entrusted to the bullpen is simply shooting yourself in the foot.

  8. doug

    Norris Hopper is so much better than Adam Dunn is in left field its not funny. For those who say Adam Dunn is improved this year…. I will respectfully disagree.

    Go take a peak at what Justin did over at JinAZ on the Reds on defense (link below). Norris Hopper is the 2nd best left fielder in baseball, while Adam Dunn is about 147th. Yes, we probably need Dunns bat often in close/late games, but to suggest that Dunn is better defensively is just wishful thinking in my mind.

  9. RagTag

    Do JinAZ’s stats take into account the three times I’ve seen Hopper miss a cutoff man (there have probably been more than three, but those are the only ones I’ve seen), allowing a runner to advance and/or score?

    Seems like every defensive metric shows that Dunn is better defensively than last year (though he was historically bad last year). Admittedly, I haven’t checked the stats in a while, though.

    The point, however, is that this move to take Dunn out makes the Reds LESS LIKELY to win these close games. That’s due, primarily, to the suckitude of the bullpen. There’s a much better chance that we’ll need Dunn’s bat than there is that he’ll muff a ball and lose the game.

    It’s just micro-managing stupidity…and I maintain that it actually decreases the Reds’ chances of victory substantially. I’m sure Jerry Mackanin or Pete Narron or whatever his name is would argue with that point, however.

  10. Randy

    Norris Hopper the 2nd best left-fielder in baseball? Surely you aren’t suggesting that’s accurate?

    How many games/chances has Hopper had in LF? Barely a handful, I’d say. Sounds like a small sample size anomaloy to me.

    On the other hand, he’s almost as dumb as Freel out there. I’ll take Dunn and his bat, thank you very much.

  11. doug

    Ragtag and Randy, I am going to assume that you didn’t go check out the link provided based on your comments?

    Hopper has 92 innings in LF compared to Dunns 664. In his 92 innings Norris Hopper has made 11 plays out of his ‘Zone’, along with 100% of the plays in his zone. Dunn has made 14 plays out of his zone (very very bad) in 664 innings and 86% (quite a good rate actually) in his zone. That has nothing to do with ‘small sample size’ as it does with Adam Dunns inability to cover ground in the gap/down the line.

    That said, I was never saying to remove Dunn in late innings, I was more commenting on the fact that some people were saying Hopper was not good defensively and that Dunn was somewhat improved.

  12. Y-City Jim

    I like how Mackanin and Dunn have handled this situation. Dunn felt like he could discuss this with Mackanin and Mackanin handled it with him professionally.

  13. Justin

    With the Reds winning games Dunn opened his mouth questioning his role on the team. Good. Dunn realised that the extra inning games that he want part of he could have helped the Reds win in the games they lost. He has made an effort to improve his shabby defensive reputation. That being said, Communication is always a good thing. What is bad is that the press got a hold of it, thus forcing the issue to the forefront. Hey we are not Dunn yet, next up Redbirds.

  14. Randy

    1. 92 innings is a small sample size.

    2. The metrics linked above do not take into account the horrible decision-making displayed by Hopper.

    3. No one is questioning whether Hopper is better than Dunn defensively. Clearly, he is. A lot better, even. The point I was making (and I think some others were hinting at this, as well) is that Hopper isn’t ENOUGH of an improvement to take the chances of taking Dunn’s bat out of the lineup — when the current state of the bullpen is considered.

    If we had the Nasty Boys out there, you’d never hear a complaint from me. With a good bullpen, the marginal improvement Hopper brings on defense would be more important. With a crappy bullpen, Dunn’s bat (and the probability we’ll need it later) becomes more important.

    I’d like to see a comparison of Dunn’s numbers from last year and this. The numbers cited above seem to indicate that Dunn has done a much better job of making the easy plays. He had trouble with that before this year. No, he isn’t as quick as Hopper, and he’ll never be as good a defensive player. But if he can make the plays he’s supposed to make, I’m happy with him.

    Hopper can’t hit. I’ll take Dunn, even in late innings.

  15. Daedalus

    Yesterday the Reds were LOSING 5-3 when Dunn was pulled. Made no sense at all.

    During that 15 inning game, Hopper misplayed that ball into a triple, allowing the typing run to score. Some people need to look up from their calculators and just watch and see with their own eyes. Hopper is a wreck out in the field. He couldn’t hit a cutoff man to save his life, either.

  16. Dan

    I am a Donkey hater, for reasons oft mentioned, but I was to point out a somewhat Donkey-redeeming, and further Narron-damning stat.

    Batting 5th in the order, in 120 AB’s this year, he’s hitting .192 with a .667 OPS. Batting cleanup, in 73 AB’s he’s hitting .329 with a 1.193 OPS. For someone purportedly so stat crazy as Narron, WTF?

  17. RagTag

    Yeah, where’s the logic in pulling Dunn when the Reds are BEHIND? We really need his bat in that situation.

  18. Bogey

    Yup, the only difference I see in Jer and Mac is the W/L pct. But we all know that’s not what’s really important here.

    Gotta have them individual stats. That’s what’s important.

  19. Chris

    I respect JinAZ’s work A LOT.

    I have not read his study yet.

    I am still comfortable saying that any conclusions drawn from 91 innings of fielding play are worthless.

  20. Chris

    Okay, I read Justin’s post, and the THT data. Since the point is based on +/- data, it’s “valid.” To the same extent that any counting stat performance is valid — you can’t take those “out of zone” plays away. BUT, like Tuffy Rhodes’ 3 HR on opening day, we can still challenge whether the performance in a tiny sample is representative.

    I do.

    The rate at which Hopper supposedly gets to balls out of his area in LF is simply absurd (0.98 extra outs per 9 innings). That’s essentially twice as high as the next-highest guy.

  21. Mark T

    Jeez – I thought things were going OK. I hear a rumor that Mother Theresa is looking for a managerial job. Maybe that will satisfy you.

  22. RagTag

    Okay, Mark, I trust you will let us know when we can criticize the Reds again, since you are evidently the gate-keeper.

    COme on…every single person here is very happy that the Reds have won four in a row. Does that mean that EVERYTHING they are doing is perfect? If not, then why can’t we discuss how the REds can improve?

    Your comment had no substance to it. If all we did were sit around and hum to ourselves and pretend everything was grand in Reds Land, well, it would make you happy, obviously, but it would be pretty boring.


  23. DevilsAdvocate

    Oh now, no point in pushing things so far. True, the Reds are winning and we’re all thrilled that they are finally playing like we thought they could. But it’s also true – I’m pretty sure – that this is not due to some sort of managerial brilliance that Mackanin possesses and that Narron did not. The winning ways of late are certainly not due to late-inning defensive changes. That’s the springpoint of the criticism – it doesn’t help the team.

    And nothing strikes up an argument like Adam Dunn.

    Also, she’s no longer with us, but even in her prime Mother Theresa couldn’t baseball-manage her way out of a wet paper bag. 😉

  24. JinAZ

    Doug beat me to the punch with Hopper. 🙂

    These are counting stats, not rate stats, so it is very impressive when players playing a small number of innings (or at-bats) can “beat” folks who have played a large number of innings. It’d be like someone getting on the leader board in home runs with just 100-150 at bats.

    In this case, I think the data do indicate that Hopper is a very good fielder in terms of his range, especially in left field where the bar isn’t very high (he can hold his own in centerfield too). No, it says nothing of his ability to hit cutoff men, nor anything about his arm strength. It doesn’t even say anything about his ability to cut off ground balls, as those aren’t considered outs. And no, I would not expect him to keep up this pace for an entire season if he played out there every day–luck has probably come into play here to some degree. But I’d still expect him to be significantly above average out there.

    Dunn, on the other hand, is below average (though not horrible), and has been for a long time. So a defensive substitution, in my mind, does make some sense (though it probably makes more sense for Griffey than Dunn…but that’s another story). But I’d probably wait until the 9th inning to do it, rather than the 7th or 8th when Mackanin has been doing it, because Dunn’s offense is too valuable.

    FWIW, UZR, which is often considered superior to the zone rating stuff I’ve been using (more granular, includes info on batted ball type, park factors, etc), rates Hopper as saving 5 runs above average in the first half. That puts him 9th in baseball among left fielders.

  25. Mark T

    Mother Theresa would have divine guidance, and that would stop her from putting Hopper in for Dunn.

    Look – we get a new manager, and the team strats doing things it hasn’t done all season. Coincidence?

  26. RagTag

    Look – we get a new manager, and the team strats doing things it hasn’t done all season. Coincidence?


  27. DevilsAdvocate

    Mother Theresa would have divine guidance, and that would stop her from putting Hopper in for Dunn. –Mark T.

    Ha! Touché – that’s very good.

  28. Jared

    Alright, as a starter, you’re counting on Dunn batting roughly every other inning. Say you take him out and put Hopper in in the 8th (we’ll go 2 full innings here). That’s 20% of Dunn’s at-bats and 22% of the other teams at-bats.. At that point, you’re basically saying Hopper is a better overall player than Dunn and should be starting.

    If Dunn isn’t due up any time soon or the change is made after the top of an away game, maybe there is some merit, but if you’ve conceded better defense for a better bat for most of the game, why not the rest?

  29. Chris

    I agree with Randy’s take: Hopper’s obviously better than Dunn in LF (though the precise margin is debatable). Dunn is obviously miles better than Hopper at the plate. I don’t believe A > B.

    One quibble: If the Nasty Boys were out there, you could use an OF of Dunn, Kevin Mitchell, and Alex Johnson and be fine. Together, they averaged 9.3 K per 9 IP.