Three weeks ago, our old friend Adam Dunn was traded from the White Sox to the Oakland Athletics, in exchange for minor league pitcher Nolan Sanburn and cash. Those of us who remember Dunn fondly from his time with the Reds were pleased. He’ll finally get a chance to play in the playoffs for the first time!, we thought. (Followed quickly with a deep sigh, and a I wish he coulda made the playoffs as a Red….)

Dunner, in typical Big Donkey fashion, promptly homered in his first game for Oakland, his 20th of the season to that point. His presence hasn’t exactly stopped the near-complete collapse that we’ve seen from the A’s, but at least Oakland still holds a slight lead for the first American League Wild Card spot. So there’s a decent chance that Dunn will actually play in the post-season for the first time in his fascinating 14-year major league career.

In the wake of Dunn’s trade to Oakland, the big guy made a little news with the report that he was leaning toward retiring after this season:

“This is probably going to be it,” said Dunn, who doesn’t think he can be talked out of his retirement plan. “I’ve been playing a long time and haven’t got this opportunity, so I’m going to try to make the most of it.”

Given that news, it seems like a good opportunity to look back at Dunn’s career with the Reds. This is, of course, the latest installment in my continuing crusade to attempt to get Cincinnati fans to reevaluate Adam Dunn’s career since he left the club. Yes, Reds fans, you may be surprised to learn that Dunn was actually good!

Let’s begin here: Dunn has 462 career homers; that total is 35th on the all-time list, ahead of such luminaries as Carl Yastrzemski, Andrew Dawson, Cal Ripken, Johnny Bench, and Todd Zeile. (On second thought, one of those may not have actually been inducted into the Hall of Fame.) As noted by Jayson Stark, Dunn is one of only nine players in baseball history to hit 40+ homers in five consecutive seasons. And what about this:

If you’re not into round numbers, you’ll be delighted to know that Dunn also once had a streak of seven straight seasons with 38 homers or more. You know who else had a seven-year streak of 38-plus? That Babe Ruth guy again (from 1926-32). The only longer streak — ever — is nine, by Rafael Palmeiro.

Even better, Dunn is the only player in baseball history to have 38+ homers and 100+ walks in six straight seasons. Ever. (He’s also the only player in history to strike out 140 or more times in 12 different seasons, too. Dunn is a man of many parts.)

Now, let’s take a break here to say this: I’m not trying to tell you that Adam Dunn is a Hall of Famer. He’s not. I think he’s pretty clearly a slam-dunk candidate for the Reds Hall of Fame, but I’m not saying he’s a baseball legend. I just think he’s been more productive than most of you think he was.

Let’s talk solely about Dunn’s career with the Cincinnati Reds. As you may remember, Dunn played for the Reds for the first 7.5 years of his career, beginning way back in 2001. He played 1087 games for the Redlegs, hitting .247/.380/.520 with 270 homers and 646 RBI. His adjusted OPS+ was 130, and Dunn also hit eight triples, if you’re interested.

Did you know that Dunn ranks first on the all-time Reds franchise list in two categories (among players who played at least 1000 games for the club)? It’s true. Dunn ranks #1 in both height and weight, according to Baseball-Reference.com. You could look it up!

Okay, let’s look at some of the more relevant statistical categories. For example, Dunn’s 270 homers ranks fourth on Cincinnati’s all-time list, behind Bench, Frank Robinson, and Tony Perez. Yes, while you were whining and complaining because Dunn wasn’t good enough for you when he was here, he hit more homers than every person who ever played for the Reds, other than the three Hall of Famers mentioned above.

Sure, the Reds were completely awful from 2001 to 2008, when Dunn plied his trade for the hometown nine. I know Cincinnati fans have always loved blaming the Reds’ struggles during those years on Adam Dunn and Junior Griffey. Doesn’t it make more sense to blame the bad players on those teams? Yes, I’m looking at all you pitchers from those years, such as Jimmy Haynes, Ramon Ortiz, Elizardo Ramirez, and Brandon Claussen.

Never mind all that, for a moment anyway. Let’s get back to what Dunn actually did on the field for your favorite National League baseball club. (The Reds. I’m talking about the Cincinnati Reds. They are your favorite team, remember?) Here’s the Reds all-time franchise top ten in home runs:

1. Johnny Bench 389
2. Frank Robinson 324
3. Tony Perez 287
4. Adam Dunn 270
5. Ted Kluszewski 251
6. George Foster 244
7. Ken Griffey, Sr. 210
8. Eric Davis 203
9. Barry Larkin 198
10. Vada Pinson 186

All Reds legends. Every single one of them. But a certain segment of Reds fans don’t like Dunn. I don’t get it. (Actually, I do, but I’m going to pretend otherwise.)

Let’s look at some other categories. On-base percentage, for example: Dunn’s .380 OBP as a Red is the third-best mark in franchise history (among players who played at least 1000 games with the club), behind Joe Morgan (.415) and Frank Robinson (.389). In slugging percentage, Dunn (.520) ranks second only to Robinson’s .554 (both ahead of Foster, Klu, Bench, and Perez). As you may have already guessed, Robinson and Dunn are 1-2 in OPS on the all-time Reds list.

More:

–Dunn (755) is fifth on the franchise list for most walks (behind Rose, Larkin, Bench, and Morgan).
–He’s fifth in OPS+ (behind Robinson, Morgan, Foster, and Edd Roush).
–Dunn has the best ISO (a measure of a hitter’s raw power) in Reds history, ahead of Robinson, Foster, Kluszewski.
–Dunn is 16th in franchise history in RBI, and 20th in wins above replacement.

No, it’s not all sunshine and roses and balloons and puppy dogs and apple pie. Dunn struck out 1212 times as a Red. His defense was, ummm…less than stellar. The Reds never finished higher than third place while he was here. He wasn’t perfect.

But look at those numbers I mentioned above. Sure, Dunn largely played in a high-offense era while with the Reds, but it’s hard to argue that he wasn’t one of the most productive hitters ever to play in the Queen City. Isn’t that something? Isn’t that enough to make you rethink your Marty Brennaman-fueled dislike for Dunn? Isn’t that enough to make you forgive the guy for whatever perceived grievances you have against him as a devoted fan of the Cincinnati Reds National League Baseball Club, and just root for him to have a long run in the 2014 playoffs?

If it isn’t, I kinda feel sorry for you as a baseball fan and a Reds fan. Dunn is one of the most interesting characters in all of baseball. What a fun career. His teammates, without exception, have loved him at every stop along the way in his career, from Cincinnati to Arizona to Washington to Chicago. He hits home runs, he walks, he strikes out, he goes to the Academy Award ceremony.

He’s my favorite player in all of baseball, and I refuse to apologize for that. I hope that it is true that he is wavering on whether or not he will retire. I’d love to see him make a run at 500 home runs. Either way, I’ll continue to sport Dunn as my Twitter avatar.

However, if I haven’t yet convinced you to root for the big guy for the rest of his career, I leave you with this. It’s perhaps the finest moment of Dunn’s illustrious career; the time he called in to talk to Marty on the Banana Phone.

I present to you: Adam from Milwaukee.

32 Responses

    • Ron Fulton

      He certainly was more productive than Bruce. Both strike out but Dunnergave you 40 homers and 100 RBI’s every year.

  1. Chris Wilson

    Great read, Chad! I will always be a fan of Mr. Adam Dunn. I’ll also remember being in a hotel parking lot waiting to check into my room but not wanting to leave while a Reds game was in the 9th. I’ll also remember leaping around the lot like a fool when Mr. Dunn hit a walkoff grandslam against the Cleveland Indians that very night!

    I also have a third son named…. ADAM!

    • RedsFaninPitt

      I believe I was there for that game as well. It was the most exciting live sporting event I have ever seen. The Reds were getting killed by the Indians by at least 7-8 runs and in the final couple of innings came back to win it – capped off by his grand slam which landed in the RF bullpen just a few feet from where my family and I were seated. As soon as he hit it, I was knew it was gone as long as it stayed fair. Anyway, Dunn was a player who just never fit into the mold the Reds constantly wanted to put him into. He probably should have been groomed for 1st base from the beginning due to his size because he was never good in the OF. And, he should have been either #2 in the batting order or #6-7. He was an extreme hitter – striking out more than anything, walking or hitting a homerun. His high OBP argued for putting him near the top of the batting order, but his extremely high strikeout rate and lower batting average would argue for not batting him #4 or #5 which the Reds usually did. As it turned out, he was moved the AL past his hitting prime where he was not able to contribute nearly as much. Sad that the Reds didn’t use him better than they did.

  2. GOREDS

    Dunn was a victum of TERRIBLE Teds pitchers for most of his time here. We had third starters that had been released by other teams! The offense of that time was still coming out of the steroid era so his numbers were diluted. BTW Donkey had NO steroid talk. So, I think he was underrated.

    However, he made most of his money hitting off of other teams releivers after the Reds were already down by 6 runs. So, it is fair to say that he may never have been the guy you wnated with the gamnme on the line either.

    • GOREDS

      Still remember the dozens of times that a LOOGY would come in and K Griffey and Dunn on 6 pitches. A solid righty would have helped split them up.

  3. Matt WI

    Elizardo! Wow. Great call back. Except now I need to throw up a little.

  4. Tom Reed

    Dunn had a good eye and got a lot of walks, but fans were often frustrated when he didn’t come through with a hit when needed.

  5. al

    I also love Adam Dunn as a character, and think that he was a good guy for the Reds to have early in his career. And I really like the idea of doing a retrospective of his career as a Red.

    That said, my quibble here is that you sort of gloss over his defense being bad, and it wasn’t just bad, it was truly terrible. In parts of 7 seasons with the Reds, according to fangraphs, Dunn compiled about 20 wins. In that same time, he gave up 90 runs in the field, or the equivalent of about 9 wins. So essentially, Dunn gave up a full 1/3 of his value.

    And that’s when he was young. Fangraphs notes that over his career, he has produced 215 more runs than average at the plate, while giving up 255 (!!!) in the field. That is truly incredible. If ever there was a man born to DH it was Adam Dunn. He has 23 fWAR now, and if he’d been a DH his whole career you could add 25 more (by removing his terrible defense) giving him 48.

    With 48 career wins he would be a borderline hall of famer, though he probably wouldn’t get in. That would put him right between George Foster (47) and Jason Giambi (49) and I think that’s the type of player the Dunn Appreciators out there (like me) like to think of him as, because we remember what he did at the plate.

    But with only 22 career wins, that puts him between guys like Juan Pierre (23) and Marlon Byrd (21). Career 4th outfielders with one or two useful tools at any time. My heart says Dunn is way better than those guys, and that defensive metrics are still iffy, but really, that’s probably a much more accurate view of his value.

    • sultanofswaff

      The defense didn’t really begin to suffer until about 4-5 years into his tenure. The guy could run pretty well for his size for a time. Heck, he used to play right field and threw the ball pretty well. For me, he’s not quite HOF, but I’d rank him ahead of Giambi.

      On the personal side, you’ll never find a more down to Earth guy in professional sports. I’ve been lucky to watch his tenure with the White Sox, and his teammates raved about his generosity, looking out for the young guys much the same as Pete Rose did.

      • redsfan06

        The one thing that puzzled me about Dunn was the inaccuracy of his arm. He had plenty of zip, but was often 10-15 feet off the mark with his throws. Kinda confirmed he made the right choice to pursue a baseball career rather than try to be a quarterback.

  6. Mike_Petry

    In addition to being ahead of Andrew Dawson, he’s also ahead of Andre Dawson

    • greenmtred

      Noticed that, too, but in the overall scheme of things, he’s far behind the Hawk. Far behind.

  7. Mutaman

    This will be the second time in his fabulous career that he has played on a better than .500 team. Nuff said.

      • CP

        P-Doc, is that you?

        Better players than Adam Dunn have been stuck with miserable organizations and teams. Maybe it says something about Dunn’s priorities, but that’s about it. Mostly, it says he played on teams with terrible pitching staffs.

      • greenmtred

        No, of course not. But Dunn was/is productive in very limited range of baseball skills, so it seems to me that his niche would have to be DHing for a team with a really loaded line-up which could take advantage of his OBP skills, would be on base for those homers, and would be able to pick up the pieces after the numerous strike outs.

  8. The Next Janish

    I’m a donkey fan but I think a lot of the animosity could be summed up in the fact that he is a year and a half away from 500 home runs and he’s okay with walking away, at a relatively young age.

    I still wonder how he got so head over heels on a flyball in a game against the Giants. I went to get some nachos heard the hit, turned around, and Dunn’r looked like bugs bunny snuck a banana peel on the field on him.

  9. redmountain

    This is a guy who when he first came up really stung the ball to left. Then he became a dead pull hitter. I have a problem with him just like I do with Bruce. They did not maximize their talent. He has a good eye so he walks, why not take a little off the swing so you put balls in play? Go to Left

  10. Kyle

    I’m a massive Dunn fan as well. I have constantly checked his stats since he left the Reds and was happy for him to go to Oakland. I hope he sticks around and makes a run at 500 for a few years but have enjoyed his run quite a bit. Totally agree about the HOF point- not a HOFer but a very good baseball player. Oddly, I watched Dallas Buyers Club last night for the first time and was excited to see Dunn playing the bartender in a couple of scenes.

    I had always wanted to root for a Dave Kingman style player growing up: the big K, huge HR guys. Those are now Adam Dunn style players.

  11. JRS1972

    Part of it is probably that he always looked like an unkempt oaf in a city that was just getting used to players even being allowed to have facial hair.

  12. cfd3000

    In my entire “career” as a Reds fan, going back almost 45 years, I’ve only followed two players with any real interest after they left the Reds. Rooting for their success even though they were in the wrong dugout. And Adam Dunn is one of them. I am glad he’s a lock for the Reds HofF some day. Here’s wishing him post-season success and a few more years of dingers, walks and yes, strikeouts. Hats off to you, Adam.

  13. i71_Exile

    I love Adam Dunn and what he brought to the Reds. He did his three things extremely well—hence the Adam Dunn Hat Trick. I always had hope that he would turn a game with one big swing and was generally satisfied with a walk as a consolation prize. Sure, we got an awful lot of strike outs. ‘Cest la vie.

    I’ll be there when he’s inducted into the Reds hall cheering loudly.

    • C-bus Chris 14

      Adam Dunn was a waste of talent. A power hitter that could not hit a sacrifice fly to save his life. He looked like a beer league softball player and that’s just about how he played the game throughout his career. Lots of home runs. Most of them meaningless in garbage time during losses on chronically losing teams. Poor defense. Fat. Slow. Uninterested. Poor attitude in the dugout. I always got the impression he would rather play for a losing team than a winning team because he wouldn’t have to be bothered with daily expectations and accountability from the media and fans. I think he enjoyed the anonymity of losing while he collected his paychecks in obscurity. As you can tell, no, I was not an Adam Dunn fan.

      • C-bus Chris 14

        I had a son who plays Division 1 college baseball. I always taught him to play the game exactly like Pete Rose and the exact opposite of Adam Dunn.

      • i71_Exile

        Since you have a son who plays, you should realize that trying to hit a sac fly usually results in an infield pop up. It’s not a simple, automatic task. Ask Joey Votto.

        You don’t have to be a Pete Rose type to succeed in baseball. One could argue that Dunn’s laconic personality may have allowed him to live with his flaws and not beat himself out of the league mentally like Billy Beane (the player). Who knows? What I liked about Dunn was that he did his two positive things very, very well. I’d take that over five tools of “average” every day.

        I don’t think there’s ever a bad time for a home run and I would bet that the vast majority of all home runs are hit off lesser pitchers. That’s why they are lesser pitchers.

      • wvredlegs

        Ask Joey Votto???? I thought you could count his career infield pop outs on your fingers and toes.

      • Nick Kirby

        The majority of the time, a sacrifice fly actually decreases your chances of winning.

  14. lost11found

    I appreciated Adam Dunns hitting skills and batting eye, seldom do power and OBP mix. I do think thought that during his tenure with Reds was a bit like some of stories about BP in that personal achievement had too big a role in his approach. Perhaps, that in itself was a byproduct of being on non-contending teams for the most part.

    The big strike out in Dunn’s book with me was his stubborness about playing 1B. His skills in the OF were slipping badly, and while he would not have been great at 1B either, his lack of range in the OF had a negative synergy with the pitching staffs of the day.

    Overall a good, sometimes very good player that we got to enjoy the prime years of.