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Shawon Dunston

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Shawon Donnell Dunston

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[edit] Biographical Information

Shortstop Shawon Dunston played 18 years in the big leagues and was a two-time All-Star. The bulk of his career was spent with the Chicago Cubs, although most of his post-season appearances were with other teams. His son, Shawon Dunston, Jr., was picked in the 2011 draft by the Cubs.

Dunston was the first overall pick in the 1982 amateur draft. As a result, he was a highly visible prospect who was brought along carefully by the Cubs, spending 3 ½ seasons in the minors. When he finally came up in 1985, he displayed great defensive range and an absolute cannon for an arm. Moreover, on the other side of the ball, Dunston possessed both a modicum of power and a surplus of speed, stealing 212 bases in his career, with a high of 30 in 1988. Over the course of that career, however, both his HR and stolen base totals were somewhat suppressed by his lack of selectivity at the plate.

Dunston never did win a Gold Glove, but then Ozzie Smith was winning the award year after year in those days. Throughout the late eighties and early nineties, however, Dunston was routinely recognized by National League managers as having the strongest infield arm in the league. [1] As longtime Buc scout Howie Haak told Dennis Tuttle in 1997, according to the Pittsburgh Pirates' rating system, wherein 30 was an average arm, 35 average-plus, 40 above average, 50 outstanding, and 60 the absolute best, only two players had ever earned that top score - namely, Shawon Dunston and Roberto Clemente. Haak helps put this into perspective by referencing a couple of rifle-armed prospects of more recent vintage, namely Raul Mondesi and Dave Parker, neither of whom could do better than 40. [2]

For many years, Dunston and Ryne Sandberg formed the double-play combo for the Cubs. Shawon was three years younger than Ryne, having come up in 1985 to replace veteran Larry Bowa when Sandberg had just won the MVP award in 1984.

In 1997, Dunston walked a shockingly low eight times all season, tying Doug Flynn for the fewest walks in a full season, post-WWII (450 or more at-bats). In 1999 he had an even lower ratio of walks per 100 plate appearances, getting 2 walks in 255 appearances.

He never led the league in any major hitting category, but was third in the league in doubles with 37 in 1986. Due to his tendency to draw very few walks, his OPS+ scores were usually low in spite of a decent batting average and moderate power.

The second-most-similar player, based on similarity scores through 2008, is Jim Fregosi. However, Fregosi did win a Gold Glove, played at a time when batting averages were at historic lows, and drew walks pretty well, thus showing the limitations of the similarity scores method. Perhaps a better comparison is Dunston's contemporary Juan Samuel - while Samuel is only tenth on Dunston's list of most similar players, Dunston is # 2 on Samuel's list.

[edit] Notable Achievements

  • 2-time NL All-Star (1988 & 1990)

[edit] Further Reading

  • Rick Sorci: "Baseball Profile: Shortstop Shawon Dunston", Baseball Digest (April 1991), p. 67. [1]

[edit] Notes

  1. See, for example, the poll results for 1986 and 1988, and 1991 (Scroll down for 1990 and 1989 results) and 1992.
  2. Dennis Tuttle: "The New Arms Race", Inside Sports, August 1997, p. 35

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