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Adam Dunn’s race to the bottom

Posted by John Autin on July 17, 2011

Perhaps lost in the glow of Edwin Jackson's shutout Saturday was another oh-fer by ChiSox DH Adam Dunn (0-4, 3 Ks).

Dunn's batting average is now .159, giving him a 20-point "lead" in the backwards race for the worst qualifying BA in the live-ball era. Rob Deer currently holds that distinction with his .179 average in 1991; only one other qualified batter has finished below .190 in a live-ball season (Eddie Joost, .185 in 1943).

But the 91 years of the live-ball era may not be big enough to contain Dunn's futility. So let's cast the net all the way back to 1893, when the 60' 6" pitching distance was established. The only player with a qualified BA under .160 was the notorious non-hitting catcher Bill Bergen, who did it twice (while compiling a lifetime .170 average): .159 in 1906, matching Dunn's current mark; and the all-time record of .139 in 1909. And Bergen's 372 PAs in both seasons would not have qualified by the modern standard; the qualifying threshold at the time was 100 games.

In his last 47 games, Dunn is 19 for 161, a .118 average, with 76 strikeouts -- 4 times his hit total. He has just two 2-hit games in that span, and the 2nd hit in one of those games came in the 14th inning. He has 3 Ks or more in 11 of his last 44 starts.

Dunn is 4 for 43 in July. That's one less hit this month than Derek Jeter had in his 3,000th-hit game, and just one more hit than Jose Reyes had in the 12 innings he played this month before going on the DL.

Whew.

Here are the qualified sub-.190 seasons since 1893:

Rk Player BA Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB IBB SO HBP SH SF GDP SB CS OBP SLG OPS Pos
1 Bill Bergen .139 1909 31 BRO NL 112 372 346 16 48 1 1 1 15 10 0 50 0 16 0 0 4 0 .163 .156 .319 *2
2 Bill Bergen .159 1906 28 BRO NL 103 372 353 9 56 3 3 0 19 7 0 43 0 12 0 0 2 0 .175 .184 .359 *2
3 Adam Dunn .161 2011 31 CHW AL 79 327 273 25 44 12 0 9 36 48 0 118 4 0 2 6 0 1 .294 .304 .598 *D3/9
4 Billy Sullivan .162 1909 34 CHW AL 97 302 265 11 43 3 0 0 16 17 0 50 5 15 0 0 9 0 .226 .174 .400 *2
5 Red Kleinow .168 1908 30 NYY AL 96 312 279 16 47 3 2 1 13 22 0 31 3 8 0 0 5 0 .237 .204 .441 *2/4
6 John Henry .169 1914 24 WSH AL 92 309 261 22 44 7 4 0 20 37 0 47 1 10 0 0 7 3 .274 .226 .500 *2
7 Bill Bergen .175 1908 30 BRO NL 99 320 302 8 53 8 2 0 15 5 0 31 0 13 0 0 1 0 .189 .215 .404 *2
8 Bert Adams .176 1918 27 PHI NL 84 247 227 10 40 4 0 0 12 10 0 26 1 9 0 0 5 0 .214 .194 .408 *2
9 Rob Deer .179 1991 30 DET AL 134 539 448 64 80 14 2 25 64 89 1 175 0 0 2 3 1 3 .314 .386 .700 *9/D
10 Mickey Doolan .179 1918 38 BRO NL 92 343 308 14 55 8 2 0 18 22 0 24 0 13 0 0 8 0 .233 .218 .451 *4
11 Billy Sullivan .179 1907 32 CHW AL 112 363 329 30 59 8 4 0 36 21 0 67 3 10 0 0 6 0 .235 .228 .463 *2/4
12 Bill Bergen .179 1901 23 CIN NL 87 326 308 15 55 6 4 1 17 8 0 39 0 10 0 0 2 0 .199 .234 .433 *2
13 Bill Bergen .180 1902 24 CIN NL 89 342 322 19 58 8 3 0 36 14 0 47 0 6 0 0 2 0 .214 .224 .438 *2
14 Tony Smith .181 1910 26 BRO NL 106 414 321 31 58 10 1 1 16 69 0 53 2 22 0 0 9 0 .329 .227 .556 *6/5
15 Rabbit Nill .182 1905 23 WSH AL 103 373 319 46 58 7 3 3 31 33 0 65 5 16 0 0 12 0 .269 .251 .520 *54/6
16 Bill Bergen .182 1904 26 BRO NL 96 347 329 17 60 4 2 0 12 9 0 50 0 9 0 0 3 0 .204 .207 .411 *2/3
17 Tommy McMillan .183 1910 22 TOT NL 105 376 322 22 59 1 3 0 15 37 0 33 2 15 0 0 11 0 .271 .205 .476 *6
18 Lee Tannehill .183 1906 25 CHW AL 116 428 378 26 69 8 3 0 33 31 0 36 5 14 0 0 7 0 .254 .220 .473 *56
19 Steve O'Neill .184 1917 25 CLE AL 129 429 370 21 68 10 2 0 29 41 0 55 4 14 0 0 2 0 .272 .222 .494 *2
20 Mike McCormack .184 1904 21 BRO NL 105 398 347 28 64 5 4 0 27 43 0 50 2 6 0 0 22 0 .278 .222 .500 *5/4
21 Eddie Joost .185 1943 27 BSN NL 124 496 421 34 78 16 3 2 20 68 0 80 0 7 0 8 5 0 .299 .252 .550 *54/6
22 Eddie Zimmerman .185 1911 28 BRO NL 122 469 417 31 77 10 7 3 36 34 0 37 2 16 0 0 9 0 .249 .264 .513 *5
23 John Gochnaur .185 1903 27 CLE AL 134 512 438 48 81 16 4 0 48 48 0 52 0 26 0 0 10 0 .265 .240 .505 *6
24 John Gochnaur .185 1902 26 CLE AL 127 506 459 45 85 16 4 0 37 38 0 25 0 9 0 0 7 0 .247 .237 .485 *6
25 Bill Hallman .185 1901 34 TOT ML 128 525 464 48 86 13 5 0 41 28 0 39 4 29 0 0 13 0 .238 .235 .473 *45/6
Rk Player BA Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB IBB SO HBP SH SF GDP SB CS OBP SLG OPS Pos
26 Dan Uggla .186 2011 31 ATL NL 93 379 345 44 64 15 1 15 35 31 1 84 2 0 1 4 1 2 .256 .365 .621 *4
27 Bill Bradley .186 1909 31 CLE AL 95 376 334 30 62 6 3 0 22 19 0 38 3 20 0 0 8 0 .236 .222 .458 *5/43
28 Ossee Schrecongost .186 1904 29 PHA AL 95 326 311 23 58 9 1 1 21 5 0 16 0 10 0 0 3 0 .199 .232 .431 *2/3
29 Ed Gagnier .187 1914 32 BTT FL 94 360 337 22 63 12 2 0 25 13 0 24 1 9 0 0 8 0 .219 .234 .454 *6/5
30 Ralph Young .188 1918 29 DET AL 91 368 298 31 56 7 1 0 21 54 0 17 0 16 0 0 15 0 .313 .218 .531 *4
31 Monte Cross .189 1904 34 PHA AL 153 573 503 33 95 23 4 1 38 46 0 69 7 17 0 0 19 0 .266 .256 .523 *6
32 Joe Evans .190 1917 22 CLE AL 132 460 385 36 73 4 5 2 33 42 0 44 1 32 0 0 12 0 .271 .242 .513 *5
33 Zeb Terry .190 1916 25 CHW AL 94 324 269 20 51 8 4 0 17 33 0 36 6 16 0 0 4 0 .292 .249 .541 *6
34 Bill Cunningham .190 1911 25 WSH AL 94 368 331 34 63 10 5 3 37 19 0 0 2 16 0 0 10 0 .239 .278 .517 *4
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/17/2011.

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61 Responses to “Adam Dunn’s race to the bottom”

  1. It's an absolutely horrible season he's putting up. Can Ozzie really keep putting him in there everyday for the rest of the year if he doesn't pull it together?

    I mean, they would've scored more runs if Omar Vizquel was DHing every game.

    A one dimensional DH slugger with a .300 SLG.

  2. Something else Dunn has in common with Joost and Deer is having more walks than hits.

    These are the guys who have done that while qualifying for the batting title and compiling an OPS below 0.750.

    PLAYER........OPS...BB...HITS
    Eddie Yost..... .748...151...119...1956 WSH AL
    Jim Wynn...... .744...127...93...1976 ATL NL
    Max Bishop... .713...128...110...1929 PHA AL
    Rob Deer..... .700...89...80...1991 DET AL
    Eddie Joost... .678...114...111...1947 PHA AL
    Jimmy Sheckard... .606...68...49...1913 STL/CIN NL
    Adam Dunn... .598...48...44...2011 CHW AL
    Tony Smith... .556...69...58...1910 BRO NL

  3. I was sure that Ed Brinkman would make this list--guess he was a better hitter (or had fewer at-bats) than I remember!

  4. I expected I might see Ray Oyler on the list but unfortunately in his only season with enough at bats to qualify he hit a robust .207, which was .042 over his career batting average.

  5. Brian Wells Says:

    Poor John Gochnaur!Apparently couldn`t field very well either.I believe he holds the modern record for most errors in a season with 98 (1903).A starting player with a .185 average,no homers,and 98 errors!(The 2nd stringer must have been a doozy). He most surely must have the most similar back to back seasons ever-it`s down right eerie!

  6. I think of Joe Lefebvre in '82....

    Apr-Jul 31 - .146/.229/.198
    Aug-Oct 3 - .301/.338/.413

    Making me think Dunn could still turn things around.

  7. John DiFool Says:

    K-ing in half of his at-bats? :boggled:

    I wonder if he is simply one of those guys who can't hit when they are DHing.

  8. Morten Jonsson Says:

    It gets worse against lefthanders--.031 (2 for 64). But he's still started over half the White Sox games against lefties. I'm not sure what Ozzie is thinking, but no one ever does.

  9. @1
    Jimbo, my first thought, after reading JA's blog, was the same as yours about playing time for Adam Dunn. But will a general manager let you sit such an expensive "asset"?

    It would be a daily slap in the face to the person who inked Dunn to the current contract.

    What a decline. And to think he showed up on the list of youngest to 40 HR's from two days ago in JA's Mike Stanton blog!

  10. @7
    John DiFool, are you an long-time Tigers fan?

  11. Richard Chester Says:

    @3

    Brinkman batted .185 in 1965. Although he played in 154 games he had only 491 PA rather than the required 502. Evidently he came into many games as a defensive replacement with no PA.

  12. I was expecting to see Dal Maxvill on this list, but I guess he had too few plate appearances in 1969, when he hit .175. Dunn's slump is really strange, I wonder, as others have said, if part of the reason is him adjusting to being a full-time DH.

  13. Bruce Gilbert Says:

    At number 15, Rabbit Nill--what an appropriate name for one of the all-time non-hitters! At #28, Ossee Schrecongost--he was Rube Waddell's catcher. Perhaps Rube was driving him especially crazy in 1904!

  14. You wonder if Dunn isn't suffering from some hitter's variant of Steve Blass Disease. He's too young to have suddenly lost his ability.

  15. John Autin Says:

    @5, Brian -- Say what you will about John Gochnaur; I still say the collection of team names on his resume cannot be topped: Naps; Bronchos; Superbas! :)

  16. John Autin Says:

    @13, Bruce -- LOL.

    BTW, I always thought that Ossee Schrecongost had to be a cousin of Johnny Carson's first girlfriend, Emily Cockinlocker.

  17. John Autin Says:

    In light of the many "I expected to see ___ on this list" comments, it's a good time to point out that for a hitter to play enough to qualify for the batting title while hitting this poorly, he must have either good defensive value or a strong batting record in the past.

    And I think we know which niche Dunn fits.

  18. So if he falls short will we have to credit him with hits until he gets to 502?

  19. John Autin Says:

    @18, Travis -- Interesting point ... and since this particular Batting Crown of Thorns is entirely fictitious, I am ruling by fiat in favor of your proposal.

  20. Guillen should take a cue from Tony LaRussa: Have the pitcher, I mean Dunn, bat 8th.

  21. John DiFool Says:

    "John DiFool, are you an long-time Tigers fan?"

    Nope, Red Sox-why should you ask?

  22. Brian Wells Says:

    @15,John--Topped?Those names will never be even be equaled!"Naps" is the only time I can think of that a team took the name of their star player.What the Hades IS a Superba??!!!?The more I learn about John Gochnaur,the stranger it gets!Thanks for the info.

  23. Based on things I read when Dunn was with the Reds, I think he may be having a difficult time adjusting to DH. I think he needs to be more involved in the WHOLE game (NL-style) than just bat 3-5 times with nothing directly productve to do in between.

  24. As a Sox fan, I really hope Ozzie at least sits him against left handed pitchers and uses Lillibridge at DH. Certainly, I'm hopeful to believe this is just a fluke season after signing a new contract. Not the first time a player's numbers have slacked in year 1 of a new contract, just maybe one of the few times the results were this ridiculously extreme compared to his career no's in the NL.

  25. John Autin Says:

    @24, Bob M -- Yes, yes, that's all well and good -- but what about "my" trade suggestion, Dunn for Jason Bay?
    http://www.baseball-reference.com/blog/archives/13013
    (see bottom of post)

  26. @21
    Pardon the personal question, John, but I thought you might have been a John DiF......, that I worked with once. Sorry.

  27. To those wondering why Ozzie just doesn't sit him:
    He can't.
    Dunn has 3.5 years left on his deal which he just signed. Ozzie has to keep playing him and just hope that he turns it around. There's nothing else they can do. They can't bench him because he already has no trade value with this horrific slump.
    Best bet is to play him, hope he at least hits a few key HR, has a good enough year next year, and then trade him.

  28. John Autin Says:

    Rich, I follow your reasoning for this year. But if Dunn has "a good enough year next year," why would they want to trade him?

  29. [...] of the live ball era for a person who qualified for the batting title. Deer hit .179 in 1991. http://www.baseball-reference.com/blog/archives/12991 Dunn went 1-4 today to raise his average to .160. Vs. LHP: 2-64 (.031)! Official sponsor of my [...]

  30. @27
    Rich, how much do you sacrifice the team's chances of winning by giving a rally-killing, offensive black hole at bats?

    And isn't Dunn's contract virtually untradable? Contrary to the old adage, there isn't a (baseball) sucker born every day.

  31. I don't know if Dunn is untradable. John A., Met fans here are so lathered up about Bay that they might welcome a deal, especially if they equalize money. Dunn is strong enough (if he connects) to hit it out of CitiField. And the Met's aren't really in contention right now and can give Dunn the chance to work out his issues. The Sox have a more realistic opportunity. It's possible both teams can catch lightening in a bottle.

  32. I remember Ken Szotkiewicz.

  33. John Autin Says:

    To quote a favorite line from a favorite film (The Lion in Winter):

    In a world where carpenters get resurrected, anything is possible.

    I think there are many contracts out there as bad as Dunn's. All it will take for a trade to happen is two GMs being willing to swallow their pride and admit defeat.

    Dunn's batting record over the previous 4 years was extremely consistent. So, as mind-numbingly bad as he's been this year, I refuse to believe that he simply lost the ability to hit somewhere between October 2010 and April 2011. If he's not hurt (and I've heard no talk of an injury), his problem is mental.

    I think a change of teams would help him, especially a return to the NL. That's why I'm lobbying for a Dunn/Bay swap.

  34. John Autin Says:

    @32, Psychump -- Ken Szotkiewicz's irregular appearances in 1970 didn't quite register with this 6-year-old Tigers fan, but now that you mention him:

    -- He's one of 9 players with at least 3 career HRs and less than 10 hits.
    -- He's one of 63 players with at least 9 hits and more walks than hits.

    But how did he ever get to the majors in the first place? He was a high draft pick, but hit .147 in his first year in the minors (15 for 102) and followed that with a full-season .232 with 5 HRs in 104 games. Next thing you know, he's made the Tigers out of spring training!

  35. John Autin Says:

    @30, Neil L --

    (Punchline to your opening question)

    This is an Adam Dunn thread; why are you bringing up Alexis Rios, Brent Morel, Gordon Beckham, Omar Vizquel and Juan Pierre?

    But seriously ... have you taken a close look at the White Sox stats this year? Dunn's been bad, but Rios and Morel have been worse, in terms of what puts runs on the board.
    http://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/CHW/2011.shtml

    I'm surprised they've managed to score as much as they have -- they're 11th in OPS, but 9th in Runs.

  36. JA, note I have posted over in the "Stodgy" blog about the Dunn for Bay trade. I think I've reached the conclusion that it would be good for both teams.

  37. Johnny Twisto Says:

    What the Hades IS a Superba??!!!??

    One who is superb, of course.

    Dunn has 3.5 years left on his deal which he just signed. Ozzie has to keep playing him and just hope that he turns it around. There's nothing else they can do. They can't bench him because he already has no trade value with this horrific slump.

    The contract's been signed. Nothing Guillen or the Sox do will change that. They need to figure out what's best for the Sox, and what will get Dunn going. Most likely no one really knows the answer to that. But they can't be afraid of benching him because of his contract. Going 2-for-90 with 40 Ks is worse than sitting every day. I'm not saying they should give up on him. But if they feel they can be competitive this season, they need to do whatever is necessary to be competitive. And if they feel Dunn can help them over the next few seasons, they need to do whatever is necessary to get him on track.

    I know he's no great shakes in the OF, but I don't think Quentin or Pierre are either (are those their corner OF?). Maybe Dunn really can't hit as a DH and they need to consider him in the field even if he's terrible. I assume they're not going to sit/move Konerko.

  38. @34 In 1970, Ken Szotkiewicz hit .263 in Spring training. From what I read, the plan was to start weak hitting César Gutiérrez at SS and if he were lifted for a pinch hitter to use Szotkiewicz as the defensive replacement. The Tigers released Tom Tresh who had started 77/107 games at SS in 1969 after being traded from the Yankees. Tresh never returned to the majors. Szotkiewicz played for the Tigers the entire year but was out July 20 to Sept 8 with a strained ligament in his knee. I have his baseball card. César Gutiérrez went 7 for 7 on June 21.

  39. John Autin Says:

    Charles, thanks for the Szotkiewicz followup.

    P.S. The 7 for 7 by Cesar Gutierrez was one of the first stat-factoids I memorized as a wee lad; I believe it set or tied a record, at least at that time.

  40. John Autin Says:

    @37, Johnny -- I take it that you're not employed in the textile industry:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superba :)

  41. Kingturtle Says:

    Jim Mason is one of my favs in this regard. The one season he played every day, he hit .250. subtract that season from his totals and his lifetime batting average was .185

    He had seven 50+ AB seasons of sub .200 hitting. is that the most?

  42. Johnny Twisto Says:

    I take it that you're not employed in the textile industry

    Well,

    I'll admit this is true.

    I must say, I don't see the connection between "superba" and the description of textile workers.

    Anyway, I had to say something to rustle up an explanation of the name.

  43. This is not a good list to behold if you were a player named "Bill".

  44. DoubleDiamond Says:

    I'm somewhat surprised to see the guy that I have regarded for the past few years to be the best 2nd baseman in the NL East whose last name begins with the letter "U" in this list.

  45. John Autin Says:

    DoubleDiamond -- You're thrilling me! (Even if you're dreaming re: Ug better than Ut.)

    We must get together and start a baseball / lexicography(?) blog.

  46. @41 Bill Bergen hit below 0.200 with at least 138 AB in 10/11 seasons

  47. There must be something going on with him other than the fact he's switched leagues. He has a long, consistent track record of performance and I can't buy switching leagues has caused this enormous decline.

  48. I never understood the thing about switching leagues until I saw Eddie Murray - one of the most consistent players in history - drop to .247 in '89 when he moved from the AL to the NL. He evened that out by leading the majors in '90 with a .330 then was closer to career norms '91-'93 (despite playing for some really bad Mets teams in there). When he switched back to the AL in '94 same thing, a .254, but then .323 in '95.

    But Dunn hitting .160 and striking out >40% of the time? There's more than just a league adjustment. He just isn't seeing the ball. Maybe he needs LASIK.

  49. Kahuna Tuna Says:

    I liked it when Ossee's name was still being written "Schreckengost" — basically German for "scary ghost." According to his SABR bio, the last big-league game he caught was Addie Joss's perfect game on 10/2/08. Nice note for a catcher to leave on.

  50. John Autin Says:

    @49, Kahuna -- Thanks! When I saw the current spelling of his name, I thought I had misremembered the spelling ... which isn't like me. :)

  51. John Autin Says:

    @48, Kevin -- Eddie Murray's .247 in '89 could also be seen as a simple sign of aging and park effects. If you look at his seasons from '89 onward, that .330 in 1990 is more of an outlier than the .247.

  52. John Autin Says:

    I wonder: Does Adam Dunn have light-blue eyes? Maybe he just learned this year that he's not supposed to see the ball as well as dark-eyed folks, and is therefore plummeting like Wile E. Coyote when he realized he had run past the cliff's edge.

    That was probably a crappy attempt at humor, but I'm just flabbergasted at this "light-eyes" revelation. There was a piece about it in the NY Times on Sunday, quoting Buck Showalter to the effect of, yeah, we've known about this for years, and if you don't take eye color into consideration when assessing a player, then you're not much of a scout. OK, Buck, but it's certainly the first I've ever heard of it.

  53. @52 It's true JA, I've been on top of the eye color situation for a long time now!

  54. John Autin Says:

    ... is it a corollary of the Coriolis Force? :)

    (I couldn't resist.)

  55. Nash Bruce Says:

    ......or, more likely, the Corona Force. ;)

  56. Nash Bruce Says:

    (after 12 or so, you'll start to wonder, if you, yourself, need Lasik.)

  57. For the record, I have medium brown eyes, and for a decent contract, would be more than happy to take a swing or two. I can also hit 57MPH on the radar gun (but I'm a righty, so..)

  58. Dan Uggla is hittting a productive .186.

  59. @ 30 if Vernon Wells can be traded, anyone can

  60. I just was looking over some additional details on Dunn's season and see that he is hitting .123 at home, as he is 17 for 138 (compared to a whopping .196 in away games). Good lord that's awful!

  61. I still think Dunn will pull out of this. But the contract itself was bizarre. Recall Ozzie last year, who, when it suited him, cursed, fulminated and sulked himself into a DH spot that was supposed to be open for rotation amongst his stable of multi-talented and versatile players, not some slow, lumbering power hitter. Check out who manned DH in 2010.