Defending Adam Dunn / Reds - General

Pop Quiz, Hotshot

File this one under things I will never understand…

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Two players, both of whom are among my favorites of the last decade. These are their 2010 numbers. One of these players is turning into a Cincinnati folk hero. One of these players was chased out of town by Marty Brennaman and a fickle fan base.

It is what it is, but I will never understand why Cincinnati hated Player B. It makes no sense, even to this day.

35 thoughts on “Pop Quiz, Hotshot

  1. Are you questioning Marty Brennaman’s judgment? How DARE you?

    Seriously though, yes, it’s ridiculous. Gomes has that fire in his belly, that spit in his crawl, and he seems to be a great teammate. He struck out a lot but not at record-breaking paces. But, Dunn? He didn’t care and was lazy and aloof. (And he struck out at record-breaking paces.) Of course, that’s hearsay and none of that stuff about Gomes or Dunn makes a lick of difference when it comes to actually winning baseball games.

    • Gomes has that fire in his belly, that spit in his crawl, and he seems to be a great teammate. He struck out a lot but not at record-breaking paces. But, Dunn? He didn’t care and was lazy and aloof. (And he struck out at record-breaking paces.)

      Perceptions and reality are funny things.

      Career Numbers
      Name PA/SO
      Gomes 3.8
      Dunn 3.7


      That’s the number of games missed the last 7 years by the guy that “didn’t care and was lazy and aloof”.

      All Time Reds Leaders
      Rank Player OPS PA
      1. Joey Votto .958 1870
      2. Frank Robinson .943 6409
      3. Adam Dunn .900 4562

      It’s a shame one of the best all time Reds hitters was such a convenient scapegoat for fickle fans who were tired losing. Dunn is far from a complete baseball player and will unfortunately forever be held responsible for the Reds inability to put together a decent pitching staff to go with the good offensive teams that he was an key part of.

  2. Agree that winning cures all, and Dunn strikes out more than Gomes. Mohawks tend to help with likeability too.

    Dunn consistently put up solid numbers like the ones above, but considering he did that for 7 years, didn’t show meaningful improvement in your defense/baserunning, and continued to have a laid back demeanor despite posting losing season after losing season, I think the fan base grew tired with it and was ready for a fresh start. You gotta start to think too, maybe the guy just has “loser DNA.”

    I was as big of Dunn fan as anyone, but I was somewhat ready to move on as well. He’s regarded as one of the funniest and nicest guys in the clubhouse, but I’m not sure his laid back approach would be the best influence on our young core of players. Dunn seems more into hunting and fishing, whereas from what I hear guys like Votto and Bruce just wanna talk baseball all the time.

  3. I think it has to do with winning/losing. When losing, fans focus on negatives such as Dunn’s strikeouts and defense.

    I wrote about Hank Sauer, kind of an Adam Dunn of the 1940’s in MVPs a couple of postings below this one. He was disdained by management and fans, too, for strking out too much…for heaven’s sake, he led the league with 85 strikeouts!!!

    It’s all a matter of perspective.

    Larkin and Griffey were lightning rods…fans/sportscasters talked about “recliners in the clubhouse” being a detriment to a team, yet our beloved Sparky Anderson is known to have told the team that Rose, Bench, Perez, and Morgan had no rules and that everyone else did. That didn’t seem to hurt team morale…

  4. Washington Nationals say Dunn is fantastic in the clubhouse and that he works hard.

    I would suggest clubhouse/team effort is more a reflection of management expectations/inspections than the players themselves.

    Oh…and I hate mohawks, but I like Gomes’s hustle.

  5. Winning teams need a hairy character. See also: Brian Wilson, Johnny Damon, Mitch Williams, Goose Gossage, Jason Werth, et al.

  6. Not really what the question was, but worth noting – Player A cost his team $875,000 last year. Player B $12,000,000.
    …For the money I’d take player A.

  7. I think all the main points have already been covered, but perhaps another perspective… Dunn was consistently one of, if not the best hitter on the team year in and year out, and was expected to produce as such. He almost always did, but he was never the leader type, and for better or worse his approach at the plate was ALWAYS the same (including his extreme selectiveness which isn’t always fan friendly).

    Gomes is a role player and is therefore given the leeway to contribute where he can but also contribute more to the “heart” element of the team. No one is expecting him to be a star, and as FCR pointed out, he isn’t paid like one.

  8. I know Adam Dunn isn’t much better defensively at first than he was in left field, but I never quite got why they didn’t move him over there after the Mayor left Cincy.

  9. Sorry, this is slightly off topic but interesting nonetheless… I was going year by year with Reds teams to see if (as I had guessed) Dunn was the highest producing Reds hitter for most of the years he was here, according to OPS+ (turns out he was, though in 05 Griffey beat him out)

    But 2005 is the interesting part… that year every Reds starter had an OPS+ above 100 (including 144 and 140 from Griffey and Dunn), they led the NL in HRs, runs, SLG, and OPS (2nd in OBP), and they still lost 89 games. Obviously we know the pitching was dreadful for most of the decade, but it shocked me to see that 67 games were started by a pitcher who ended up with an ERA over 6. SIX! And ANOTHER 30 started by Ramon Ortiz who had an ERA of 5.36

    Anyways, not sure if that “every starter has OPS+ greater than 100” thing happens very often, but it caught my eye.

  10. 1) You are comparing a LF to a 1B. It looks like all of MLB has determined that Dunn’s career in LF is pretty much over. We already have a first baseman and he is pretty decent.
    2) $11 million difference in salary is significant.
    3) Maybe Dunn is better in the clubhouse now, but there is no question that the clubhouse needed an attitude shift and he was part of the old guard.
    4)Adam Dunn’s salary would pose a significant hurdle to signing Bruce and Votto long term.

  11. Has Dunn signed anywhere yet? I still want him.

    Your comparison still leaves out some important facts, Chad. As much as everyone loves Gomes, almost no one wants him starting in LF. So, if you measure “likes” by “wants the guy to start,” people absolutely liked Dunn more.

    Less important but a factor nonetheless is the huge disparity in pay. Gomes works for peanuts and Dunn not only costs more, but costs enough to be a guy you need to budget around. Gomes’ salary doesn’t impact the budget.

  12. @Jared: I don’t think that’s true at all. I bet 90% or more of Reds fans were happy with Gomes in LF this year and “want him to start” next year. Listen to WLW some time.

    Sometimes we get lost in the echo chamber of the internet, where most of the people we discuss the Reds with are somewhat educated as to what makes a good player. Joe Fan doesn’t read FanGraphs. There’s a lot of ignorance still out there.

    Your budget point is a strong one, though it really doesn’t address what I was getting at (which is that one of these guys is beloved and one was disliked).

    Also, addressing a point made earlier, Gomes was NOT a role player last year. He was the starting LF. He’ll be in the same role in 2011, too…unless WJ can get someone else in here.

  13. Bottom line, they were losers when Player B was in leftfield and winners with the folk hero Player A. Maybe that is where the lack of a love relationship with Player B came from. Those damn fickle fans loving a winner.

  14. @Chad: You’re right, the Reds definitely relied on Gomes to play a large role last year, not only starting in left but also batting in the middle of the order. However, I wasn’t necessarily equating “role player” with “bench player”. It was more a reflection of the perceived pecking order on this team, whether it’s based on our assessment or Joe Fan’s. I think even a casual observer would place Gomes “role” below Votto, Rolen, Phillips, and probably Bruce (certainly in the long term).

    Probably what I should have zeroed in on (and what other’s have mentioned too) is performance versus expectation. The Reds offense was down in ’09 and Gomes was red hot at the start of 2010. I don’t know that people were expecting the Reds offense to rank near the top of the NL in 2010, nor were they expecting Gomes to be a big reason for that through 2 months of the season. I think all these factors combined in Gomes favor, as far as fan perception goes.

    Honestly, I was always frustrated at the fans’ displeasure toward Dunn, and when he left after ’07 we saw what happened to our production. I think your point is a great one.

  15. I’m disappointed by the BTW that Dusty has made some thinly veiled potshots at Dunn and Griffey when talking about the “new Reds.”

  16. How do you hit 38 homeruns and only have 103 rbi’s. Dunn fails to hit in pressure situations with runners in scoring position and hit balls out of the ball park with no one on base.

  17. As Furniture City Red implied, Dunn sucked up a significant portion of the payroll and didn’t manage to help the team win. In the end, baseball is about winning, not loyalty to or affection for any single player.

    Dunn came to the Reds when management thought they could win by signing two or three player to big expensive contracts. That didn’t work. Dunn si gone. So is the management.

    I imagine there are people in Washington who care more about Dunn’s stats than about the Expos winning.

  18. I forget to mention that, without Dunn, the Reds won their division, and that with Dunn the Expos, uh… did not.

  19. I would love to see someone even attempt to logically defend the position that if Adam Dunn had been playing LF for the 2010 Reds instead of Jonny Gomes that they would not have won the division.

    AND…don’t play the “money” card….the Reds made $18 million in operating income in 2009 as a losing team, and they haven’t made less than $17 million since 2004. The value of the team has increased by $61 million since Castellini purchased the team in 2006. They obviously made more in 2010 when they were winning and attendance increased at season’s end.

    The end result doesn’t justify the means. The Reds lost with Dunn because they did not have enough of a supporting cast.

  20. Runs batted in/home run has to do with who’s getting on base ahead of you. The Nationals had a team OBP of .318, the fifth lowest in the league.

    Odd stat, though, for this year. It looks like Dunn was trying to avoid walking with runners in scoring position and tried to force action. For his career, he’s drawn walks about once every six plate appearances. With runners in scoring position, for his career he’s drawn walks about once every 4.5 plate appearances (some say he’s taking, I’m saying he’s being pitched around). For his career with bases loaded, he’s drawn walks once every seven plate appearances. With runners on third and less than two outs, he’s been walked once every five times to the plate. With runners on third and two outs, he’s been walked once in less than four plate apperances.

    2010 was different: for the year, he drew less than 100 walks for the first full season in his career, only 77, which is about one walk per eight times to the plate. With runners in scoring position, he drew about one walk per 6.5 plate appearances. With the bases loaded he drew NO walks in 18 plate appearances. With runners on third and less than two outs, on average he drew one walk in seven times to the plate; with runners on third with two outs, he drew on average one walk per five plate appearances.

    These changes must have been made consciously for there to have been that much of a difference.

    Still, the rbi per home run stat argument doesn’t hold water. Mickey Mantle averaged 2.8 rbi/home run for his career; Dunn is at 2.4. Mantle had the following years (Hank Aaron had seasons like this, too), but first Mantle:

    37 HR/99 rbi, 52/130, 34/94, 42/97, 31/75, 40/94, 54/128, 32/89, 35/111

    Aaron: 30/95, 32/89, 39/109, 44/97, 40/96

    When a player hits lots of home runs they drive in fewer runs on the other hits because they have fewer of the other hits. Anyway, Mantle often hit with Bobby Richardson leading off (lifetime .299 OBP), and Aaron batted behind Felix Millan and Red Schoendienst (.310’s OBP). For the Nationals this year it was Nyjer Morgan (.319).

    If Dunn had been batting behind Pete Rose, career .375 OBP, or Joe Morgan (.392 career OBP), giving him another 80-90 runners on base ahead of him per year is rbi/hr total would be a lot higher, too.

  21. I don’t blame Adam Dunn for much of anything. But I look at his attitude towards the game of baseballs, then I look at Mr. Hamilton of the Red–er–Rangers. I still get the feeling that Adam Dunn wasn’t a very high energy veteran, and he may have tried to (get former management to) chase him out of town and trade him for a pitcher that we didn’t really need. (Oh Wil, that was in 2008. Well, I guess Mike Leake, Johnny Cueto, Homer Bailey, and Travis Wood just showed up on our doorstep one day, looking for a job?)

    Johnny Gomes is just the second choice for prom date because we waited too long for the dreamy date, and he got taken. I blame Adam Dunn for taking away a great player in Hamilton.

    We would have the AL MVP and NL MVP on the SAME TEAM! It’s so frustrating.

  22. @Chad Dotson:
    His ridiculous option gets picked up at the end of the season, and then by the end of the year Hamilton was gone. We traded away who everyone KNEW was the greatest (read as: biggest) Rule 5 pickup… probably ever. Hamilton has a promising rookie season (especially in comparison to our current starting outfielders), gets sick, then he just drops off the radar and is traded for two shaky at best pitchers. Sure, Volquez had a good ’07 year, but he always looked inconsistent to me. And DRH… hmmm, well… yeah. Hamilton was a fan favorite. He would have been one of the golden boys that line up and play for the team now. He would have been as much as a hero as Bruce, Rolen, Stubbs, Votto… all of them.

    Who was Dunn in 2007? The growing scorn that got paid too much. The clubhouse leader that wasn’t after Junior went coastal. The guy who watched the fly balls dance around him against the 2007 Nationals. I saw him in person. Personal Statistics are personal statistics, but it all comes down to the team’s record, if you’re a management staff of average competence. I’m not the guy who doesn’t care if his team finished 75-87 and some guy put up 40 homers. I want to root for a team that hires players that know how to put a win in the column when the chips are down and the clock is ticking. Adam Dunn is not that person, and, barring a miraculous intervention, found his true calling as a hitting exhibit for the Washington Expos, and nothing more. A needless shadow over a better quality guy, both on and off the field, in Zimmerman.

    Dunn should have been in that trade. Old management wet the bed and allowed the option for the class bully, and allowed the right guy to just slide on down to Texas.

    I know I ranted, but it just hurts. It feels like Dunn was something spectacular, the golden boy of the lost decade of Reds Baseball, the guy who sold the jerseys and put skeptics in the weekend bleachers. He was the guy up to one day probably back in ’06, maybe early ’07, then it just all stopped and no one knew what to do. The big guy lost his shine and turned to brass. He was the sand on the shaky foundation that eroded away and sunk the team into a lull.

  23. @Wil Payne: That is an impressive post. I didn’t think it was possible to write that much without using one single fact.

    Every bit of that is what you want to believe, without one single fact to back any of it up. Hate Dunn if you like, but my personal opinion is that I wish you wouldn’t make up crap to dump on him.

  24. @Jimmy James: I guess the fact that Adam Dunn plays a far inferior statistical defense compared to Hamilton isn’t true? Is it also fiction that he had a much larger contract than Hamilton? Did I imagine they were both traded? Is there some universe parallel to mine, where the team is known as the Cincinnati Purples and Pete Rose is the General Manager? Also based upon your reaction, I assume in this reality, all comments on the internet are proven to be 100% invalid and unworthy of your time unless they are college essays.

    Must be a rather trippy place.

  25. Wil,

    There’s absolutely no connection of dots that can be made in Hamilton’s trading in relation to Dunn’s contract. Hamilton didn’t go over $555,000 until 2010 (this past season). Volquez won’t do it until this year. Contract status was irrelevant and we didn’t have too many outfielders.

    Now, contract status may have prevented Dunn from being traded, and that’s not Dunn’s “fault” either…

    Rightly or wrongly, I’ve actually heard that Hamilton was more of a distraction in the clubhouse than Dunn. I can’t say that I know the cause but I’ve heard “rumors” that it had to do with Hamilton’s faith and if that’s the reason, I (personally) think it’s wrong headed thinking on the parts of the other players. Having said that, I truly hope what I’ve heard is wrong.

    Frankly, I would be thrilled to have Dunn in left, Hamilton in center, and Bruce in right with Stubbs as my fourth outfielder.

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