This is what I get for being upbeat about Dusty Baker in my last post. We all know Dusty’s ridiculous statements regarding on-base percentage. Well, for those who think he’s learned anything on that point, I give you this:

Baker has repeatedly talked about the desire to have a do-it-all leadoff hitter with speed. What kinds of hitters is he looking for further down the lineup? Does he want guys with lofty on-base percentages? The answer will likely not sit well with fans of the book “Moneyball,” because Baker said he believes the OBP statistic is overvalued.

“I’m big on driving in runs and scoring runs,” Baker said. “Guys in the middle should score about close to equal to what they drive in. On-base percentage, that’s fine and dandy. But a lot of times guys get so much into on-base percentage that they cease to swing. It’s becoming a little bit out of control.

“What you do is run the pitcher’s count up, that helps,” Baker said. “You put him in the stretch, that helps. But your job in the middle is to either score them or drive them in. The name of the game is scoring runs. Sometimes, you get so caught up in on-base percentage that you’re clogging up the bases.”

“[C]logging up the bases.” He said that in the last day or two.

I just threw up in my mouth a little bit.

About The Author

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 chaddotson@redlegnation.com.

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42 Responses

  1. Y-City Jim

    Should somebody tell Baker that if a hitter gets on base he is likely to be driving in a run.

  2. Matt B.

    I’d like to know where Dusty is pulling this wonderful wisdom from.

  3. doug

    How do you work in baseball for the last 40 years and yet have no freakin’ clue how scoring runs works?

  4. Mark T

    Get the base-cloggers out of there! Make room for guys who can drive in runs.

  5. Andrew

    Maybe it’s a bigger deal than we thought that Krivsky got rid of that sub-.300 OBPing Jorge Cantu. D-Bakes would have seen those 117 RBI a few years ago and given him 500 PAs.

  6. Tampa Red

    You do realize that Baker is talking about middle of the order guys, right?

    I happen to agree with Baker, at least as far as Dunn is concerned. I have always wished Dunn would be more agressive at the plate, especially when he is hitting in the 5-hole or lower.

    A great example of what I think Baker is talking about is Tony Perez. In a HOF career that spanned 23 seasons, Perez had more than 60 walks in a season exactly FIVE times.

    Not coincidentally, Perez is also in the top-10 all time in RBI’s.

    Meanwhile, Dunn has 5 seasons ALREADY of over 100 walks and an OBP 40 points higher than Perez.

    I think some of you algebra and slide rule guys get so caught up in all of the new stat categories that you forget the basic baseball fundemental that you beat the other team by scoring more runs, not drawing more walks.

    Here’s a couple more middle of the lineup guys that Baker is talking about from the not-so-distant Reds pastL

    Bench: 6 seasons out of 17 of 60 or more walks, a career OBP 40 points less than Dunn and 1376 career RBI’s AS A CATCHER, I believe that tops the all-time list, unless Piazza topped it.

    George Foster, 3 seasons out of 18 with more than 60 walks, a career OBP 50 points lower than Dunn, 1239 career RBI’s.

    In other words, these guys went up there looking to hit the damn ball, not let someone else do it for them.

  7. Ben

    Amen, Tampa Red, Amen! We fight a losing battle around this site, but it’s a fight worth fighting. Middle of the order guys have to put the ball in play. If you are in the 1 or 2 hole, yes you better have a high OBP, but when you are as big as dunn and can hit the ball 600 feet, you should never strike out looking.

  8. Y-City Jim

    Nobody in the Moneyball camp says that players shouldn’t be up there looking to hit the ball but rather are saying to avoid being overly aggressive at the expense of shortening an inning. Since there are three guys in the middle of the order one would hope that if one gets on base then the opportunity has been given to the next one has the opportunity to drive him in.

  9. doug

    A guy like Adam Dunn should never be trying to just put the ball in play by being aggressive. He has way too many problems making contact with balls in the zone, if he starts swinging at balls out of the zone all its going to do is lead to 230 strikeouts, 30 HR and 80 RBI.

  10. Shawn

    OK, so if it’s bad for a middle-of-the-order hitter to draw lots of walks, then the years they drove in more runs, they drew fewer walks, right?

    Not so fast, dude.

    Tony Perez drew his career high in walks, 83, in 1970. That was also his career high in RBI, 129. Johnny Bench’s highest walk total, 100, was in 1972, one of his MVP seasons when he drove in 125 runs.

    Explain this one to me again?

  11. RedFuture

    Tampa Red’s opinion is very near my own. I think Dusty was especially talking about Dunn. All to often he appears to be looking for the walk with men in scoring position or just refuses to swing unless the pitch is on a tee. His job is to drive in runs and he needs to be more aggresive early in the count. After 2 strikes I want him to cut down his swing as he did much of the second half. I think this ‘light’ had already gone off in Adam’s head and that he is going to be more that kind of hitter.

  12. Tampa Red

    Doug, you are wrong, IMO.

    Dunn’s problem is that he takes too many strikes early in the count, typically very hittable balls. WAY too often, his first swing is for strike 3. Also WAY too often, he takes strike 3.

    I submit that if he were more aggressive early, his K’s would actually go down.

  13. Tom

    A great example of what I think Baker is talking about is Tony Perez. In a HOF career that spanned 23 seasons, Perez had more than 60 walks in a season exactly FIVE times.

    Not coincidentally, Perez is also in the top-10 all time in RBIs.

    Meanwhile, Dunn has 5 seasons ALREADY of over 100 walks and an OBP 40 points higher than Perez.

    Besides the fact that Perez is 24th all time on the career RBIs list, I’m curious about your claim that his great RBI totals are due to the fact that he did not draw a large number of BBs. You might be interested to know that half of the men ahead of him on the career RBI list, are also in the top 25 in career BBs.

    1. Hank Aaron+ 2297 R 24th
    2. Babe Ruth+* 2217 L 3rd
    4. Barry Bonds* (42) 1996 L 1st
    5. Lou Gehrig+* 1995 L 15th
    6. Stan Musial+* 1951 L 12th
    8. Jimmie Foxx+ 1922 R 20th
    10. Willie Mays+ 1903 R 18th
    11. Mel Ott+* 1860 L 8th
    12. Carl Yastrzemski+* 1844 L 6th
    13. Ted Williams+* 1839 L 4th
    17. Frank Robinson+ 1812 R 22nd
    22. Frank Thomas (39) 1674 R 9th
    24. Tony Perez+ 1652 R 146th

    I think some of you algebra and slide rule guys get so caught up in all of the new stat categories that you forget the basic baseball fundemental that you beat the other team by scoring more runs, not drawing more walks.

    Let me tell you about a another stat category, runs scored. Guys who get on base more, tend to score more runs. Check out this little Perez/Dunn comparison through a similar point in their careers (Career totas for Dunn, Career totals through 1971 for Perez).

    Name AGE PA HR R RBI BB R/PA RBI/PA AVG OBP SLG OPS
    Perez 29 3996 162 519 623 319 .13 .16 .285 .342 .481 .823
    Dunn 27 4098 238 620 572 675 .15 .14 .248 .381 .519 .900

    In approximately the same number of PA, Dunn knocked in 50 less runs, but yet scored 100 more runs. How do you beat the other team again? You said, “you beat the other team by scoring more runs”. So which one of these guys helped their team score the most runs do you think?

    I’m always amazed when I find Dunn critics who point out Perez and his RBI skills and wish Dunn could be more like him. Perez had a wonderful peak from age 25-35 where he had 11 consecutive seasons where he knocked in 90+ runs. Over that period he averaged 102 RBIs/year and 81 runs scored per year. Adam Dunn has his own little streak started, where from age 24-27 he has 4 consecutive seasons of 90+ RBIs. Over that period he has averaged 100 RBIs/year and 103 runs scored.

    In other words, these guys went up there looking to hit the damn ball, not let someone else do it for them.

    Maybe if they weren’t so one dimensional and increased their OBP skills, they could have scored runs at the same rate as Adam Dunn, who already knocks in nearly as many runs as them, and helped the team score runs even more.

    My big hope this season is that Baker puts Dunn where he belongs, in the number 3 spot in the lineup to best utilize his unique OBP and SLG skills. Then maybe if he is not batting 5th, where only an buffoon would bat someone with Dunn’s skillsets, people will stop criticizing him for not being just Tony Perez.

  14. Tampa Red

    By the way Doug, at no point did I say that Dunn should swinging at balls out of the zone. I assumed that was self-evident.

    I’m talking strictly about the EXCESSIVE number of 1st pitch strikes that he takes. Screw that, swing the damn bat. Quit getting yourself in a bad hitting count.

    Dunn is in the over-whelming majority of hitters that suck with 2 strikes. Hell, he might be the worst of the worst. So what sense does it make to continue to insist that he get himself in that situation? So we can all brag about his OBP?

    For the record, I love Adam Dunn, and I think the Reds will be making a huge mistake if the don’t lock him up long-term RIGHT NOW.

    Someone, hopefully it will be Baker, will convince him to quit thinking like a leadoff hitter. If that happens, the Reds won’t be able to afford him.

  15. Tampa Red

    Tom:

    You have me pegged as a Dunn critic. Frankly, I love the guy. I just think he could be a MUCH better run producer if he would swing the bat more.

    I personally believe that Baker was speaking directly to Dunn with his comments. I hope it works, and we have a chance to reflect back on this conversation at the end of the season, Tom.

  16. Tampa Red

    By the way Tom, I mentioned hitting Dunn in the 5 hole, which, IMO, is where he belongs. You said only a buffoon would hit Dunn in the 5 hole.

    At the risk of being banned, your role as a moderator (or whatever) shouldn’t grant you the right to speak that way to those you disagree with.

    If all you want is a moneyball echo-chamber, then say so and I’ll disappear. If you don’t mind honest, passionate dissent, then control yourself. Maybe you’ll get more participation.

  17. doug

    Adam Dunn’s problem isn’t that he takes too many pitches. Its that he doesn’t swing and make contact enough with the ones he does swing at.

    Swinging at more pitches isn’t likely to change that.

    Dunn kills change ups and curveballs and struggles with everything else. He really struggles against fastballs (hit .221 and slugged just .430 against them last year) as well as sliders and sinkers. That is likely why we see Dunn take pitches early in the count.

    Would I love Adam Dunn to trade some walks for some doubles and home runs? Absolutely. Would I love for him to drive in more runs? Yep.

    The problem with Adam Dunn is that he isn’t a middle of the order type of batter. He is placed there and expected to get hits and hit for power. Instead he walks and hits for power. He would be much better suited for batting second than he would be 3-4-5, because he just isn’t the type of batter who is going to ever drive in a ton of runs that aren’t via the home run. He is going to however get on base a lot, so having him on base for the 3-4-5 guys who are going to put the ball in play and hit for some power is good for the team, and will take advantage of what Dunn does well.

    As for ‘moneyball echo-chamber’, that has nothing at all to do with walks or on base percentage. Moneyball was about taking advantage of market inefficiencies. It just so happened that at the time, on base percentage was something that you could take advantage of paying fewer dollars for instead of batting average, while still getting similar baserunners.

  18. John

    I find many people who are critical of Moneyball haven’t actually read Moneyball. Not all, mind you, but many.

    Moneyball was about market inefficiencies and finding effective players on a shoestring. The chapter on Scott Hatteberg is a perfect example. It really is a book every Reds fan should read.

  19. Y-City Jim

    I agree that it seems that Dunn is being typecasted because he is 6’7″, 270 pounds, and when he hits a ball he hits it a long way. Baker would be better off if he moved Dunn higher in the order and got him to lose a few pounds so he could run faster.

  20. Tom

    You said only a buffoon would hit Dunn in the 5 hole.

    My apologies if I was misinterpreted, but I honestly did not mean for that comment to be aimed at you. I was speaking of the upcoming decision for Baker on where to place Dunn in the lineup, compared to last season. The buffoons of which I spoke were Jerry Narron and Pete Mackanin, who for some unknown reason, batted the player on the team with the best on base skills in the #5 hole last year for 57% of his PAs. The Reds would have scored many more runs with Griffey, Encarnacion, and Phillips hitting behind Dunn’s .386 OBP, than with him setting the table for the likes of Encarnacion, Gonzalez, and Ross. It is simply poor lineup construction.

  21. Tom

    I agree that it seems that Dunn is being typecasted because he is 6′7″, 270 pounds, and when he hits a ball he hits it a long way. Baker would be better off if he moved Dunn higher in the order and got him to lose a few pounds so he could run faster.

    This is directly to the point. Dunn is typecasted as a number 4 or 5 hitter due to his size, strength, and ability to hit for power. The problem is, the packaging is deceiving. This big hulking man gets on base like a very good leadoff hitter (Dunn lifetime .381 OBP, Pete Rose as a Red .379 OBP), and he slugs like top notch power hitter (Dunn lifetime .519 SLG, Foster as a Red .524 SLG). He manages to this while hitting a below league average .248 and striking out 165 to 195 times a season.

    Can Dunn do things better, sure he could, but so could everyone else. He has lots of warts. He’s a poor defender, Ks a lot, doesn’t have good speed, and hits for a low average. But there should be no doubt that what he does now makes him the best run producer on the Reds.

  22. Tom

    “One thing about Adam is he wants to play every day. He’s played hurt the last couple of years. A lot of people get on him about a lot of different things, but he plays. A whole lot of people look at what he can’t do instead of what he does do for us.” – Jerry Narron on Adam Dunn.

    One of my favorite Dunn quotes, even if Narron still didn’t understand what to do with Dunn.

  23. ChicagoRedsFan

    I agree; Dunn is somewhat typecast due to his size. I think the best place for him with his high OBP is 2 or 3. The Reds have plenty of good hitters with power (i.e., Griffey, Phillips, Encarnacion, Bruce (hopefully), Votto (again, hopefully) to fill out the middle of the order.

    Also, I’ve seen Dunn listed as anywhere from 235-275LBS, telling me that he most likely was as low as about 235 as a rookie or in the minors. If he could lose 20LBS (even 10-15LBS), I think he’d be rejuvenated and much more effective as a 2-hitter.

  24. John

    Come on guys!
    What kill me about sites like this is that you guys think that your smarter than Dusty Daker, a 30 year old MLB vet and proven winner. Look at Dunn for example an his case is made. The object of the game is to score more than the other team, not have the most total bases.
    Fantasy baseball has skewed a lot of peoples view on the importance of the simple things: score more than the other team.
    Sometimes I wonder (and other do to) about the baseball IQ of those who make up this blog.

  25. Andrew

    Dunn isn’t paid to be a run-producer. He’s paid to try to play baseball well. And the best way to play baseball well as a hitter is to not make outs. Be it by making contact and getting a hit or by taking 4 balls, it matters not. If he plays baseball well (read: doesn’t get out), that leads to good things for the Reds. Don’t you think if AD could do those things you ask, he would? The man is 6’6. The strike zone is HUGE for him. That’s a lot of space to try to cover, and he does his best. If that means laying off of low pitches at the knees that, while they are strikes, are almost impossible for him to hit with any degree of success, then that’s what he should do. As far as plate coverage goes, he is not Albert Pujols. He is not Vlad Guerrero. He is Adam Dunn, and that is damn good.

    As for his place in the lineup: if he’s projected to have the highest OBP, I say put him in at either the 1 or the 4.

  26. Aaron B.

    Adam Dunn is a peculiar player. I don’t mind a change of philosophy for him, though I am not sure how adaptable he really is. Do we really want to bat him 2nd? I dunno. When I plays sims I bat him 3rd because of his high OBP and slugging. Let’s see how Baker handles him and if he can get more production out of him especially in the RBI dept. I don’t think anyone of us will complain.

    This reminds me a lot of when former Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Greg Blache went on record with “sacks are over rated”. He was making a valid point about not getting caught up in stats and losing sight of the big picture but the Chicago fans went insane from that remark because they are fully indoctrinated in the Buddy Ryan philosophy 1985 season in which they raked up sacks… but yea who really cares about a sack as long as your defense holds the opposition to few points. That was the point he was making but it was lost upon the rabid Chicago fans. Lets give Baker some slack and see how things work out under his watch before calling for his head on a pole.

  27. endymion

    If only Krivdog would fire these stupid baseball guys and hire a Blogging STATs Nerd to run the Reds, we could win the World Series!

  28. Chris

    Ted Williams sucked!!! All those friggen walks. Guy should’ve swung at more lousy pitches. A few more popouts would’ve proved his dedication to the team.

    I’ll be back in my parents’ basement. Somebody yell when the season starts — not the games themselves, because I don’t watch those — just let me know when the stats show up online, cause that’s all I care about.

  29. Chad

    Sheesh.

    I’m convinced. Everything Dusty Baker says is the gospel. It’s impossible that he might be incorrect about anything. After all, he’s a 30 year veteran and proven winner.

    I’ll be shutting down the blog later tonight, or tomorrow. Clearly, we can’t discuss anything about baseball because we are “STATS nerds” who couldn’t possibly be correct about anything unless we agree 100% with everything Reds management tells us to believe.

  30. Dan

    I read sometime about an interesting experiment that Bill James did. He simulated 1000’s of games involving Babe Ruth…

    In one set of games the opponent just pitched to Babe as usual. In the other set, they intentionally walked him every single at bat.

    He found that the Babe’s team scored more runs when he was walked every time — and that was true (by far) when he was surrounded by a lineup of real 1927 Yankee teammates, and it was even true when he was surrounded by a pretty lame lineup. (I don’t remember the exact details here.)

    It’s a totally weird, extreme comparison, of course, but it illustrates a point.

    The goal isn’t just walks. It’s runs. And getting baserunners and NOT making outs leads to a lot of runs.

  31. doug

    Lol Chad.

    All ‘stats nerds’ are trying to do is find more correct ways to identify how and why a team/player does how it does. Why did they win? Why did they lose? Why did they score this many or allow this many runs? Is there a way to correct that flaw with the current team at hand?

    Thats all us ‘stats nerds’ are trying to do. I always enjoy my excel spreadsheets when I learn something new, or find something that explains why a player/team may have a much better season this time around. Nerd… I can deal with that. At least someone didn’t call me stupid, at that point it at least would have been insulting.

  32. preach

    Get ’em on, get ’em over, get ’em in. I don’t care how you do it, four walks or a solo shot, it still counts as a run. I think baserunners cause a pitcher to lose rythm just like giving up gopher balls. Home runs score right now, walks and singles score eventually and wear a pitcher down. I don’t care how you do it, just score more than the other team. I love ‘old school’ batting average, RBI, and runs scored. I have recently adopted a love of OBP. Bottom line: if just one of those categories is really high, I want you to come to the plate with runners on base. Don’t really care which one. Get ’em on, get ’em over, get ’em in.

  33. GodlyCynic

    Ummm…the Red Sox did hire an older stats nerd (Bill James) and a younger stats nerd (Theo Epstein) and managed to win two World Series rather recently with that combination. Damn those stats nerds and their lack of results!

  34. Mike Martz

    Weren’t we all told in little league that a walk was as good as a hit???? 😯

  35. Kerm

    Along those same lines Mike my high school coach would always tell us pitchers that walks kill. So throw that in there as well.

  36. Jared

    “In approximately the same number of PA, Dunn knocked in 50 less runs, but yet scored 100 more runs.”

    Yeah. He plays on a team with low OBP (which accounts for his lower RBIs) and hit almost exactly 100 more homeruns in your sample.

    “Maybe if they weren’t so one dimensional and increased their OBP skills, they could have scored runs at the same rate as Adam Dunn, who already knocks in nearly as many runs as them, and helped the team score runs even more.”

    This is a function of Adam Dunn’s power and nothing else. Sure, he’s a genius because he’s put genuine effort in to getting on base more often. But (1) what else is a guy in his position (ya know — already hitting tons of homeruns) going to do? And (2) he’s given a whole lot of walks that most people can’t hope for.

    I’ll go on record now as saying people just don’t want to like Dusty. I don’t either, but listen to what he’s saying. He’s saying people are placing too much value on the OBP stat, to which people reply with more stats.

    If you’ve got a guy on first and no one will swing the bat, not too many guys are gonna score.

  37. Chris

    Somebody, somewhere explain to me how the “clogging the bases” thing makes a damn lick of sense. (And this is twice now that he’s said it — it’s not an accident).

    “Your job in the middle is to either score them or drive them in. The name of the game is scoring runs. Sometimes, you get so caught up in on-base percentage that you’re clogging up the bases.”

    I get the first part. Don’t agree, but I understand what he’s saying.

    But that “clogging” comment just can’t be ignored. Not twice. Baker is explicitly saying that he’d prefer an out to a walk, at least in some circumstances. There’s really no other interpretation to the sentence.

    I understand that he’d rather have a hit (really an extra-base hit) than a walk. I get that part. But the “clogging” comment says that there’s something wrong simply with being on base, at least for (presumably slow) sluggers, and in some sort of circumstances.

    He’s saying that he’d rather not have those baserunners, which is just a crazy thing to say, since the only alternative to “being on base” is “being out.”

    There is simply no circumstance where this is true. Imagine the slowest batter ever, with Sean Casey up next – yeah, there’s a good chance of a double-play, but there’s also some chance of a two-run jack. Slowest player ever, with Ty Cobb up next – yeah, there’s a chance that Cobb has to stop at 2nd on a sure triple, but is “2nd & 3rd, 0 outs” somehow worse than “man on 3rd, 1 out”?

    I actually don’t think Baker truly believes the clogging statement, but he’s said it twice now, and frankly, just saying it is dumb enough.

  38. preach

    I agree, Chris. I was always taught it was a good thing to get on base. Anytime you have runners on it’s a good thing. Of course it makes double plays more likely, but it makes big innings more likely as well. Let me pose this scenario: Bottom of the ninth, down by a run, two outs, runner on third. You look down your bench and you have two options: Power hitter wih low average, or ‘base clogger’ with high average. Both have good RBI totals. Assuming they both hit from the same side of the plate and neither has faced the opposing pitcher during their careers, who do you send to the plate? Me, give me a base clogger to tie.

  39. Jared

    preach — we’re not talking high AVG here. It’s high OBP.

    I’ll go a little extreme here, but lets say whoever doesn’t get the AB in your scenario is going to bat after him. Guy A has a .500 OBP and a .000 AVG. Guy B has a .250 OBP and AVG. Who are you going with?

  40. preach

    However it’s defined, by my scenario give me the base clogger to tie with the power guy to follow. And unless it’s still early April, that guy with the .000 average is not on my bench. He’s on a minor league one somewhere. I understand the point, but I still say give me the base clogger in hopes of getting the guy from third home. Most know I’m a small-ball fan, so high OBP is fine with me (nice rhyme). Feel free to substitutute OBP for AVG in my scenario. I’m still going to use the same guy first.

  41. Jared

    You can’t substitute high AVG and OBP when you’re arguing against Dusty’s “I want guys to hit, not just get on base.”

    Even if Dusty isn’t a good fit, he’s still a better manager than we’re used to. Lets enjoy it.