Back in 2011, analysts were awash in statistics–in different ways and measures–that represented how Adam Dunn was having pretty much the worst season of all-time. Jeff Sullivan in particular, noted that an enormous amount of Dunn’s contact was going into foul territory. Given how little contact he was already making, there really was no room for such a development.
In particular, Dunn had seen his foul ball rate (the percentage of pitches he makes contact with that go foul) jump up to over 62% (a figure high enough to lead the league), after being in the mid-50’s throughout his career prime. It was hardly the only indicator of Dunn’s struggles, but Russell Carleton uncovered back in 2008 that foul balls have an inverse relationship with overall contact. Players who aren’t making solid enough contact to keep the ball in play, struggled often to make contact at all.
And while Adam Dunn was able to turn around a lot of negatives last year, he wasn’t able to reverse this trend. Tracking his results on TexasLeaguers.com, we get this progression
- 2007 – 55.9%
- 2008 – 54.5%
- 2009 – 56.2%
- 2010 – 54.1%
- 2011 – 62.6%
- 2012 – 60.7%
It wasn’t necessary to probe much farther than Dunn’s strikeout totals to discover that he did not fix his contact problems last season, but any notion that he can reverse or arrest his escalating strikeout totals should be tempered by the fact that there’s no bad luck to them, and the bat speed decline remains. He’s ending more at-bats with home runs, but the amount of balls he’s putting in play at all remains unfathomably low.
On the bright side, Carleton did discover that high foul ball totals are generally signs of power in hitters. But until further notice, that’s the only element that Dunn was able to restore to his game in 2012, and going forward.. The rest is an uphill battle.
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