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Player Value Graphs: A Look At Adam Dunn

It's not until around January when the offseason really starts to crawl for me. Most of the major free agents have signed, the winter meetings are over, and not much else is happening in baseball. We're just 15 days away from pitchers and catchers reporting to camp and then, the next thing you'll know, baseball will be back. I can't wait. Maybe one of the bigger questions (outside of Mannygate) left for baseball fans to ponder during these last few dark weeks of the offseason is:

"Why the heck hasn't anyone signed Adam Dunn?"

Adam Dunn, the 29-year-old LF with a career 130 OPS+ has been quietly waiting on the market for some team, any team, to tender him a contract. He drives traditional fans and the media crazy -- too many strikeouts! And, oh my goodness, did you see his batting average? -- but among most online baseball communities Dunn has drawn a little more appreciation. He's a very good hitter with pretty bad defense. I think that's a the best sentence anyone can use to describe Dunn. Recently on Beyond the Box Score, you might have seen a smattering of player value graphs. Today we'll be using the same graph format to check out how Dunn has been performing from 2002-08.


I'll define some of the terms quickly for first time viewers.

wRAA700 - Batting runs pro-rated to 700 PAs. wRAA is also park adjusted.
bUZR700 - Defensive runs saved pro-rated to 700 PAs. This also includes a positional adjustment for position.
ODP700 - Total player value. The combination of offense and defense.
Rep.700 - Replacement level per 700 PAs. Currently set to 22.5 runs. Replacement level is the theoretical level of freely available talent. Think of AAA types or waiver wire fodder. Players that can be easily acquired for little resources.


  • First of all, I really like the way this graph breaks down the value of Adam Dunn. His bat is really, really good. His glove is really, really bad. You'll notice a pretty large seperation between his bat and his glove. 
  • Let's talk about the bat. Since 2002, Dunn's bat has been worth between +30 and +40 runs above average per season -- he had a down year in 2006 when he hit: .234/.365/.490. That's nearly +3 to +4 wins by hit bat alone in any season. For comparison, if you looked at a list of other +3-4 win hitters in 2008, you would find such hitters as: Ian Kinsler, Jason Bay, Josh Hamilton, Grady Sizemore, Chase Utley, and Kevin Youkilis. Not a bad group of hitters to be associated with. It's clear that if there's one thing you can't criticize Adam Dunna about, it's what he brings the table as a hitter.
  • Adam Dunn's defense on the other hand is a major drawback that dings his overall player value. From 2002-2004 Dunn was primarily a -1 win fielder. That's liveable if he's still adding in +3-4 wins by his bat. From 2002-04 Dunn was primiarily a LF, but he also saw some playing time at first base. Dunn's defense dipped further in '05 and since then, he's been trending down slightly. His defense was sub-replacement level in '05, '07, and '08. 
  • By bUZR, in 2008 his defense was at an all-time low. What really hurt his defensive value last season was the Diamondbacks playing him in RF for 180 innings. In just 180 innings in RF, Dunn racked up a bUZR score of -10 runs. Over 150 games, that translates to something like -7 wins by defense alone. I can't imagine that Dunn was truly a -7 win fielder in RF over the full course of a season but despite the positional adjustments being the same for both positions, he should probably stick to LF.
  • Now that we've looked at both offense and defense, we can check out Dunn's total player value. I'll note here that on these graphs 0 runs indicates an average performance. An average player is worth +2 wins above replacement. For example, in 2008 despite Dunn's bat playing at around +3 wins above average, he gave nearly -3 wins back with his glove. Meaning that once you add in the replacement level of 2.25 wins, he was worth a little under +2 wins above replacement in total.
  • For comparison, by total player value, a +2 win player includes the group of: Hunter Pence, Adam Jones, AJ Peirzynksi, and Luke Scott. It's not a terrible group of players, but it's a far cry from the same group that Dunn is compared to on just the basis of hitting. This is why defense matters, because even if you're adding a ton of value with your bat, it's easy to lose much of that value if you're a statue in the field.

I'll end this post with a quick WAR calculation for Dunn in 2009. All projections are using CHONE and I've set the lgwOBA for my offense to .332.

-1.3 wins for defense
+2.3 wins for offense
-.75 wins for positional adjustment (LF)
+2.25 wins for replacement level
2.5 * .85 (Playing Time Adjustment) = +2.1 Wins Above Replacement

In 2009, if Dunn is worth about +2.1 WAR, he should be looking for a 1-year contract around $10M. But, in this market, I can see him getting a little less. Maybe not the 1-year $5M number that was floated around, but a couple million under his projected value.

The fact is that Dunn isn't as good as his offensive numbers would lead you to believe, but he's still a +2 win player. Maybe not a difference maker -- despite the annual 40 HR's a year -- but he could be a good, solid addition to a team needing to make the push into a higher win total. I still think whatever contract he'll receive is one of the more interesting topics left on the free agent market. Just don't expect him to defend.