Adam Dunn's Rotten 2008 Luck

Now, don't get us wrong here: Big Donkey slugged .518 with 40 homers and 122 walks, creating 7.3 runs per 27 outs. I think most of the Mariners didn't.

But those numbers were seriously deflated by the rolls of the dice.


=== Paul McCartney 'With A Little Luu-uu-uuuck' Dept. ===

And a little luck, we can clear it up
We can bring it in for a landing,
With a little luck, we can turn it on
There can be no misunderstanding

Neo-sabermetricians are concerned, in large part, with identifying players who have been "unlucky."

If a saberdog ever took the helm, his job would be a piece of cake, right? He would (1) acquire all the players with unlucky BABIP's, H%'s for pitchers, HR/F rates, etc etc ... (2) scoop them all cheap ... and then (3) watch them "regress to the mean" the next year to (4) grab his easy pennant. Don't we s'pose?

Well, then, shouldn't neo-sabes be suffering epileptic seizures over the fact that in 2008, Dunn hit 16 balls >400 feet that were not HR's? There's bad luck, and there's Bad Luck, and then there's just. plain. ridiculous.

Did the Mariners hit 16 balls over 400 feet last year? :- ) Dunn hit that many that he got cheated on.


Replace 5 doubles and 5 outs from Dunn's totals last year, with home runs, and what happens to his statline?

He hits 50 homers with 117 RBI and 122 walks.

His OPS numbers go from .236/.386/.513 to .246/.397/.571.

His OPS+ goes from 129 to 140.

But! The above considers only ONE of his bad-luck factors in 2008 -- the 16 pitches hit over 400 feet that didn't go out of the park.

As an (almost-)completely separate issue, here is ANOTHER bad-luck stat on Dunn in 2008:

.258 - Dunn's BABIP in 2008

.291 - Dunn's BABIP, career, prior to 2008

"Stack" the BABIP normalization with the HR normalization and Dunn's luck-normalized 2008 would be about .265/.420/.600.

I thought that sabes liked to identify players who hit and pitched in terrible luck? Dunn did. It's just that his final results (.236/.386/.513) don't look like the results of a player who was unlucky. :- )


Granted, Dunn's career SLG is "only" .518. But normalize his 2008, and it is over .540 in 4 of the last 5 years.

His K's were the lowest they've ever been in 2008, and his BB's the highest they've ever been. Here are his eye ratios:

2001 0.51
2002 0.75
2003 0.59
2004 0.55
2005 0.68
2006 0.58
2007 0.61
2008 0.67
2008 0.96
Total 0.64


There is a real shortage, kiddies, of players who walk 114 times*, and who hit 40-50 homers, every single year without fail. If Jeff Clement ever has 5 straight years of 100+ walks and 40+ homers, are you going to call that good enough to build around?

Safeco is a park that cries out for TTO guys. The park can't do a blasted thing about ball four, and it can't do a thing about a pitch that is launched 412 feet (the average of Dunn's 40 homers last year).


No, we're not trying to be apoplectic. :- ) Seattle fans are used to hearing wind blow and seeing no trees fall. I'll be as surprised as anybody if the M's are even one of the finalists.

But what did you want to talk about in late December? Endy Chavez?






Sandy - Raleigh's picture

While I understand and appreciate the benefits of identifying "abberant" numbers, (luck and/or unluck as it were), I think it is important to remember that it is always "possible" that an abberation is real. Sexson was slated to have a major rebound in 2008, because his BABIP was historically unlucky. Clearly, Sexson didn't bounce.
This does not mean I'm trying to argue against the above assessment. On the contrary, I find it intriguing and enlightening. And since I believe the market is such that Dunn "might" be signable for 3 years at reasonable dollars, I'm definitely more interested in seeing exactly what he's asking and for how long.
But, I tend to get antsy when the mathematicians start pretending that they have a clear read on "luck."


Right. Two things:
1. The next guy who comes along with a .212 BABIP, we're going to predict for improvement, despite Sexson's weirdnesses, right? :- )
2. What do *you* make of Richie Sexson's arc, Sandy? Great year, good year, super unlucky year, train wreck.

Taro's picture

Nice job with hittracker.. good point on the HRs. His BABIP (either than HRs) doesn’t seem on surface to be unlucky though (17.9 LD% in ‘08 compared to 19.6 LD%).
Low contact rates make him a tad more risky in the NL-AL conversion (gotta figure at least a minor hit there), but at around 4 years $15mil hes a nice fit as a 1st baseman.

Sandy - Raleigh's picture

My read on Sexson.
A) Like the vast majority of player, Sexson past 30, the body aged, things didn't work as well as they used to. (it is not uncommon for a hitter to lose 20-40 points of OPS at age 31).
B) Like the vast majority of players who start aging, Sexson attempted to adjust.
C) Sexson was playing for a team with EXACTLY the wrong coaching skillset to help. Given an organization-wide mindset of anything-but-a-whiff-is-fine-with-us, I'm betting 90% of the advice he got was specifically detrimental to his STYLE of hitting.
D) In the end, he became the hitting equivalent to Jeff Weaver -- he had a complete baseball mental breakdown. His skills probably cost him 25-35 points of OPS. The 117 he posted in 2006 was probably about where his skills SHOULD have allowed him to settle for another 3-4 years. Instead, the 2007 adjustments, (whether of his own making, or advice of others), were completely wrong. And the major problem went from physical to mental.
I view his unbelieveable home/away line in 2008 as evidence of this -- .547 OPS at home -- .863 on the road. I think the boo-birds in Seattle eventually got to him mentally, and he just loathed coming to the "office" by the end. (His K-rate and walk rate were basically identical home/road in 2008. But in almost identical PAs home/away, he had an XBH line of 1-0-3 at home and 8-0-9 on the road. He also had a BABIP of .240 at home and .302 on the road.
My sense is that, SPECIFICALLY at home, he was trying "not to get out", (it was actually 4 fewer Ks at home), which is the last thing he needed to be doing.
A+B+C+D = A guy who physically is still likely capable of posting 115 OPS+ figures, but who was likely re-living his LAST at bat for most of his final 2 years with the club.

LA Sports Insid...'s picture

[...] Here is an article on the rotten luck that Dunn suffered in 2008. [...]

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