Saturday, June 11, 2011

Adam Dunn and Chone Figgins

As we move deeper into June, we've moved past the point where you can use slow starts and small sample sizes as valid excuses for a player's poor performance. We are about 65 games into the season. A poor performance that has been consistently sustained this far into the season is a reason to sound the alarm bells.

A common misconception about A.L. or N.L.-only leagues is that if you picked up a lousy player that you're stuck with that player all season long. This concept applies far more in one-and-done leagues. In keeper leagues with any kind of dumping, winning franchises typically dump into optimal rosters. A poorly performing player is a common appearance on a one-league roster on May 15. By July 1, there's at least a 50-50 chance that this poor player will be gone.

Adam Dunn had an emergency appendectomy early this season and probably rushed back too soon. But this doesn't completely explain a season that is the worst of Dunn's career by a long shot. Dunn's strikeouts are high even by his standards and his isolated power % is extremely poor, especially for a slugger.

There isn't any one good explanation for what's wrong with Dunn. His mechanics are fine, according to one scout Jayson Stark asked. David Schoenfield speculates that Dunn could be washed up. I don't buy this explanation. Only Rocky Colavito fits in with Dunn's Age 30 comps, and even some of the examples Schoenfield uses were productive into their Age 31-32 seasons.

It could just be that Dunn is struggling to adjust to the American League. The White Sox gave Dunn a couple of days off and he came back with a home run. Dunn said that he watched some video of himself that he believes may have helped. The home run is encouraging, but as we all know one home run does not make a hot streak.

I'd hold on to Dunn as an A.L.-only contender. While I think he might still have a down year on the whole, I think he's too good not to provide some power in the second half. If you can flip him for a stronger chip in a dump deal, great, but don't treat him like an absolute zero in this type of trade.

If owning Dunn has been maddening, then owning Chone Figgins is like turning into Tyler Durden. If you bought or froze Figgins, though, it's not like last year wasn't a warning sign that he was slipping. Eric Seidman at Fangraphs put together a comparable list of hitters who have seen such a precipitous two-year wOBA drop since 1980. Figgins ranked third, just behind Travis Hafner and Vinny Casilla and barely ahead of Andruw Jones and Milton Bradley. This list does not offer encouragement.

Worst of all, Figgins is barely running. It would be one thing if Figgins had 15-20 steals; as painful as the bad batting average and lack of production everywhere else would be, at least you could suck along and just take the steals. But Figgins has seven stolen bases. Seven. To me, this isn't enough to justify the lack of production everywhere else.

Are there any positive markers anywhere? The .219 BABIP looks unlucky in light of Figgins' 18.7% line drive rate. Historically, Figgins' line drive rate has been over 20% or much better while his BABIP usually sits at 30-35%. His walk rate is down, though, and his infield fly rate is over 10%. He could be suffering through BABIP bad luck, but some of it could also be due to a lousy approach at the plate.

Will the Mariners cut bait with Figgins? I'm not sure, but I don't know if I want to wait around to find out if Figgins can overcome a historically bad 1 1/2 year trend. If I can ship him out in a dump deal and get a productive player in return, I'd do it.


Eugene Freedman said...

DanZ of ZIPS projections said of Dunn that White Sox park was the #1 field for Dunn's HR projections. He added the caveat that it probably meant Dunn would be terrible, or some such.

I took Dunn in a HR pool based upon the ZIPS projection.

Gypsy Soul said...

Mike, thoughts on Alex Rios are appreciated. Grazie.