After a horrendous down-year last season, Adam Dunn was written off as “declining,” and his fantasy value took a huge hit. It appeared as though he was headed towards the early decline that most power-hitting unathletic players head towards (steroid-era not included).
Some of the more common (and lazy) reasons people came up with were that he couldn’t adjust to the American League, and the always-moronic reason that he needed to be playing the field (offense=defense? Looking at you Gold Glove voters) to stay in a rhythm at the plate.
Dunn has rebounded in spectacular fashion, posting the second highest HR total in baseball this year with 18. Always sold as a “three-true-outcomes” hitter, with Dunn, the owner will also have to accept his high K rates. One of the catalysts of last year’s slump was his ridiculous 35.7% strikeout rate, which was significantly higher than his career rate of 27.9%. That problem has actually gotten worse this season, with his strikeout rate actually being a point higher, at 36.7%.
The odd trend involving Dunn? In the worst season of his career, he saw more fastballs than his career norm. Last season, he saw 62% fastballs, the first time that number has been above 60% since 2006. For whatever reason, pitchers have strayed away from that strategy this year, giving him 54.9% fastballs, which is as far below his career average as last year’s rate was above it.
Last season, Dunn made more contact with pitches out of the strike-zone, doing so 57.8% of the time. That number is above his career average of 45%, and may be the culprit for his 13.2% IFFB (infield fly ball) rate. That number may have been part of the reason that his HR/FB rate was a very league-average 9.6% (9.7% league average in 2011), but way below his career rate of 21.8%.
In 2012, Dunn has managed to make contact with less pitches outside the zone, at just 42.2%, and his IFFB and HR/FB rates have both regressed to even better than his career averages (7.3% and 32.7% respectively for 2012).
So what to make out of all of this? Will Dunn regress only a little bit back to his career averages, or go back to being a bad hitter again once pitchers start throwing him more fastballs?
ZiPS, Fangraphs mostly accurate projection system, has Dunn pegged to hit 20 HRs and drive in 55 runs the rest of the season, while not seeing a significant drop in average, and only a medium one in on-base percentage. I see this as a little generous, and would expect that high strikeout rate to come back and bite him if he can’t correct it.
As far as his apparent struggles with hitting fastballs, pitchers eventually will realize that weakness, and will begin to let him see more fastballs. This could lead to a major decline for Adam Dunn.
This post started off as a sell-high on Adam Dunn, now one can not be so sure doing so would be the prudent move.
Written by Spencer Schneier, exclusively for TheFantasyFix.com. For more great fantasy baseball advice, give Spencer a follow on Twitter @BaseballSpencer.