Just near the end of his fabulous month of May, it caught my eye that Adam Dunn was sporting a strikeout rate around 35%. I noticed it for three reasons.
-Wow, that’s a really high rate!
-That really high rate portends future struggles
-That really high rate means that if Dunn is able to stay in the lineup, he could smash some records
Sure enough, when Jason checked in on Dunn’s three true outcome barrage on June 21st, he was hitting .225/.369/.554–he’s since slipped to .210/.342/.486. But he was also on pace for a record-setting 256 strikeouts, which would exceed the previous record of 223 by Mark Reynolds. Now, Dunn is set to fall short at 217.
He’ll still lead the league in the category, and if he could run into a few down the stretch, Dunn still has an outside shot to win the three true outcome triple crown. But for the most part it looks like history might elude The Donkey’s 2012 campaign. Part of that is due to his missing nine games this month to an oblique strain, but part of that is just darn good hitting.
When Dunn has been able to play this month, he’s been on fire. And not ‘Adam Dunn on fire’, but the normal type of ‘on fire.’ He’s hitting .308 in September with eight strikeouts in 31 plate appearances–a svelte 25.8% strikeout rate. Everyone goes through periods of seeing the ball well, but you can’t set records for whiff by smacking doubles down the line.
The hot streak was needed, both because the White Sox need every bit of push they can get to hold on to the AL Central lead, and Dunn needed a boost to his flagging state line. But it’s unfortunate that this odd point of Dunn’s career–mid-decline where all of his prominent qualities are present in distended versions–is not getting its special place in history.
It will still make a fine addition to the top 10 (it’s already #8), which is a fascination in and of itself. All the entries on the list are 2007 or later, indicating that attitudes among teams and managers have adjusted recently to accept strikeouts as part of a package for some players. Building on that, only Drew Stubbs’ 2011 and Reynolds’ 2008 were below-average offensive seasons–because attitudes have not shifted to the point where struggling strikeout hitters get to stay in the lineup forever.
Setting the record for strikeouts would therefore not be an embarrassment for Dunn, but a clear demonstration of his staying power. Reynolds, after all, hit 44 home runs in his season of so-called ‘infamy’.
That said, Adam’s probably with him keeping the record.