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Monday, July 19, 2010
Nats' Dunn finds a home at first base


From Phil Rogers:
Tricky situation, this.

Dunn's numbers this season are skewed by an abnormally high batting average (.288) which is the direct result of an abnormally high (for him) .371 batting average on balls in play. Essentially, unless Dunn's exceptional luck holds for the rest of the summer his batting average is going to tumble.

Which isn't to suggest he's not an outstanding hitter. But Dunn's strikeouts are up and his walks are down, and when his luck changes he might not still be the hitter he thinks he is. Oddly, even if Dunn slumps at the plate his theoretical value will still be as high as it's been in a while, for the simple reason that he's apparently costing his team many fewer runs as a first baseman than he did as an outfielder.

Which brings up an interesting question: Assuming that Dunn's career path from this point is fairly normal, he's going to finish his career with at least 600 home runs and perhaps more than 700. This will necessitate a serious Hall of Fame discussion.

At this point, I'm not impressed with his qualifications. But this is largely because his potent bat in 2008 and '9 was largely balanced by his terrible numbers in the outfield. This season -- and I'll grant that measuring defense at first base is not easy -- he's been fine. Sure, it's just one method and you can find others, but let's assume that Dunn really did cost his teams 67 runs in 2008 and '09, but has cost the Nationals essentially zero runs this season. Do we hold those 67 runs against him, when considering his Hall of Fame case? Or do we simply blame the Reds and Nationals for waiting so long to make Dunn a first baseman?

I don't think it's a black-and-white issue. I like greys. I think I'd be inclined to split the difference. Maybe Dunn shouldn't have been in the outfield. But he was in the outfield, and maybe he'd have been a better outfielder if he took more interest in outfielding. On the other hand, when you've got a player who can hit like Adam Dunn hits, it's sort of your responsibility to get him into the lineup without killing your defense. And for about five years, Dunn's managers failed that test.

I'm guessing all this will become moot. Dunn doesn't strike me as the sort of player who's going to age particularly well. But if he keeps hitting 40 home runs every season, we can't just ignore him.