Adam Dunn – Baseball’s Modern Pioneer

A few days ago, I was having a discussion with some friends about who the most overrated bands of all time were. We were going for a list of the top 5 to fit that category, but the only names we could definitively agree on were The Beatles and Nirvana. That led us to the conversation of whether these bands were actually overrated or not. As groups who completely pioneered a new genre of music, of course future groups were going to be able to make it sound better once they worked on refining the sound. But The Beatles and Nirvana have to get credit for revolutionizing new kinds of music and bringing it to the forefront of people’s minds. Being the pioneer of a new age is definitely worth something, and both of those groups get properly credited for what they’ve done for music.

Question: what in the world does any of that have to do with Adam Dunn?
Answer: the new age of baseball is running rampant with the Three True Outcomes (home runs, strikeouts, and walks), and the origin can be traced to none other than The Big Donkey himself.

Before Adam Dunn burst onto the scene, the concept of a baseball player striking out a lot was blasphemous. The sacrilegious act of swinging through a strike 3 was almost too much for people to bear, which is why it should be no surprise that 15 of the top 20 career strikeout totals belong to players who played in the 21st century. Even Derek Jeter, so beloved among the traditional crowd for his prowess in getting an opposite field base hit, ranks tied for 16th in career strikeouts. Strikeouts are overrated as a measure of a batter’s worth, but many of these strikeout artists were not adept at taking ball 4, either. Enter Adam Dunn. The ever incredible Dunn ranks 44th all time in career walks having only played 14 career seasons. The only two members of the top 50 in career walks to play less than 17 seasons are Mark McGwire and Hall of Famer Jeff Bagwell, who played in 16 and 15 seasons, respectively.

Many baseball players from the late 1800s were enshrined in the Hall of Fame as “pioneers to the game”, when many of them didn’t deserve Hall of Fame consideration based on the caliber of player they actually were. Deacon White? Not that great. Sam Thompson? Not that great. Rabbit Maranville? Outside of his name, not that great. Adam Dunn? Awful outside of mashing home runs, but amazing in terms of being a pioneer. Not only should Adam Dunn be a first ballot Hall of Famer this year, he should be given a statue outside of the museum for what he’s meant to the game in its current state.

Adam Dunn epitomized the baseball player that hates to run. A whopping 50% of his career plate appearances ended with him trotting the bases, jogging to first, or walking back to the dugout. His career was defined by the big swing, and while the big swing didn’t connect all that often, the ones that did produced blasts of absolutely majestic proportions. Have you ever seen somebody hit a home run that ended up in another state? Well here you go.

Dunn’s home run flew 535 feet, bounced off the street, and landed on a piece of driftwood in the Ohio River, which is technically Kentucky.

Adam Dunn crawled so Mark Reynolds and Joey Gallo could run. While Dunn’s career 50% Three True Outcome (TTO) rate is staggering, it pales in comparison to the 59.2% career mark in the young career of Joey Gallo. Gallo, who has elite speed when involved in a “competitive run”, apparently keeps himself fresh by limiting his competitive runs to the absolute bare minimum. A player like Gallo would have never been accepted before Dunn, as the notion of striking out 200 times in a season was for some reason seen as reason enough to leave a player with elite plate discipline off a roster even though they provided consistent 35+ home run power. The strikeout as a whole is overrated. It’s not like taking a called 3rd strike gets you an out and a 15 yard penalty, mostly because 15 yard penalties don’t exist in baseball. It counts as an out the same as anything else does.

There were a lot of things Adam Dunn was absolutely incapable of doing on a baseball field that would have got him cut from most high school teams: making contact, running, and fielding. The two things he could do better than almost anybody were hit nukes and pitch. Did you know Adam Dunn has a single career pitching appearance? He threw one inning and allowed one earned run, and his career ERA of 9.00 makes him a prime candidate for the Angels to give $27 million annually to be their #1 starter. From 2002-2013, Dunn averaged a ridiculous 35 homers per year #PitchersWhoRake. He also averaged an equally impressive 101 walks and 179 strikeouts per year, rendering the defense of the opposing team almost entirely worthless. Want to talk 7 year peaks? How about a 7 year span averaging 40 homers per year? Monstrous. Amazing. Behemoth. Ace. All superlatives appropriate to one of the most prolific left handed power hitters of the early 2000s, second only to the greatest home run hitter of all time from the Giants, J.T. Snow.

A first timer on the Hall of Fame ballot, Dunn will more than likely receive under 5% of the vote this year as people often forget about the impact he had on shaping the game today. There’s a way to make sure this travesty never happens. Make sure you write your local congressman or congresswoman and tell them to Vote Dunn.

Brian Schlosser

Rockies, Angels, and general baseball fan. I love talking about baseball more than I love writing about it, and I'm always open for discussion on Twitter @brian_slosh.

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