Sunday, July 10, 2011

Diminishing Skills

What has happened to one of the most productive and consistent power hitter over the last 6 years, Adam Dunn? Even if he was to double his first half production during the second half he would not touch his expected production. Many people have speculated, from everyday regular fans all the way to future Hall of Famer Frank Thomas, reasons why, from position switch to league switch to mechanical issues, but could diminishing skills be to blame?

In an earlier interview Dunn was quoted as saying “I would like to blame it on swinging at bad pitches, but I’m not doing that” at first glance that seems true; he is taking walks, with 46 so far this year. Unfortunately, the numbers tell a different story. Dunn has been swinging at more pitches outside of the strike zone, in his career he has swung at pitches outside the strike zone at an average of 18.9%, this year though he has swung at 26.9% pitches outside of the strike zone. In addition, he is striking out at a 44% rate this year in comparison to a 33.4% rate for his career which indicates the 8% increase in pitches swung at outside the strike zone along with the 11% increase in strike outs would indicate he is not seeing the ball as well as he may think.

Along with striking out at a much higher percentage Dunn has also, seemingly, lost some strength. This is due to his drastically lower Home Run/ Flyball (HR/FB) ratio numbers. In his career 21.7% of Dunn flyballs have gone out of the park, this year that ratio has dropped to 10.5%, an 11% decline. The problem being, his flyball rate has not gone down; in fact it’s gone slightly up. Therefore he’s hitting the same number of flyballs with fewer going out of the park, in a more hitter friendly ballpark. Therefore, flyballs that used to go out, now become fly-outs.

Finally, Dunn’s batting average on balls in play (BABIP) is nearing a career low, .246. Typically an extremely low BABIP indicates a hitters lack of “luck”. The league average is .300, when a hitter is as far below as Dunn the popular thinking is that he will regress towards the mean. In Dunn’s case, I feel, this means that he in fact has lost the “understanding” of his hitting because he has lost power, a fact I feel I have laid out here, especially with so many of his hits being flyballs.

Could these drops in numbers be simply from the switching of leagues or positions or even teams? Even though Dunns “counting numbers” (HR’s, Hit’s etc.) have been mostly consistent over the last 6 years, his “rate numbers” (HR/FB, BABIP etc.) have been trending downward.


For instance you notice his HR/FB rate has been steadily trending downward and his K% has been trending upward two scary trends. These decreses in rate numbers show a hitter that has been slowly declining. These trends point to his skills slowly declining

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