At the moment, Adam Dunn leads the American League in home runs (23), walks (55), and strikeouts (109). Those three categories make up what are sometimes referred to as the “three true outcomes,” they are the possible results of a pitcher/batter duel that do not involve any other players (give or take a catcher). According to Wikipedia, the term was coined by Baseball Prospectus in reference to Rob Deer, who did all three at a very high clip.
I was intrigued when I noticed that Dunn was leading the league in all three categories on Sunday, and set out to find out how many times that had happened. Before I could do anything with the list I put together, Jonah Keri beat me to the punch. There are very few writers I’d rather be thinking like than Keri though, so I’m going to post my list and then dig around the three true outcomes a bit more.
If Dunn can hold on, he’ll be joining very exclusive and impressive company. Anytime half the list is Babe Ruth, it’s probably a pretty good bunch of ballplayers. As you can see, no player has led their league in all three true outcomes in 27 years, and no one has done it in the American League in 54 years. Can he do it? Let’s take a look at Dunn’s main competition in each category:
Home Runs: Dunn is on pace for 54 home runs, which would be both a career high and a White Sox franchise record. Hamilton has missed a few games recently, and is actually ahead of Dunn in home runs per game, but Hamilton is prone to missing games (he hasn’t appeared in more than 133 in any of the last three seasons). Jose Bautista should probably be considered the favorite here. Not only did he lead the league in home runs each of the last two seasons, but after a slow start to his 2012 campaign, Bautista has an A.L. best 10 home runs in June (compared to 7 for Dunn). Granderson found a whole new level of power for himself last season, and in the home run haven for left-handed hitters that is Yankee Stadium, he should not be counted out.
Walks: Dunn is on pace for 129 walks, which would be a career high for him (by one walk over his 2002 season) and the third highest total in White Sox history. Dunn also has seven seasons with over 100 walks in his career. Pena has the most walks in the American League in June, with 17 already, but he’s having a poor all around season, which could lead to fewer starts as the year continues. Zobrist’s career high in walks is 92, which is a strong figure, but not one that makes him seem like a strong threat to lead the league. Bautista would seem to be the biggest threat to Dunn here, just as in home runs. Bautista led the A.L. with 132 walks last season and has cut into Dunn’s lead this month. Still, Dunn has a solid chance at staying atop the league here, so long as he doesn’t change his approach.
Strikeouts: Dunn is on pace for 256 strikeouts, which would shatter the MLB record of 223 set by Mark Reynolds in 2009. Dunn has 3 of the top 11 strikeout seasons in history and set the White Sox record last year, with 177. He leads the A.L. in June, after having led the league in April and in May as well. Johnson, Pena, and Granderson are all very capable of whiffing (each has at least one season with over 160 strikeouts), but Dunn is in a class by himself right now, and if he stays healthy, it’s just about impossible to imagine him NOT leading the league.
I consider it unlikely that Dunn joins the “Three True Outcomes Triple Crown” club, the home run race is far too close to consider anyone a big favorite, and his lead in walks is far from safe too. Still, he’s having an interesting (and of course impressive) season all the same. In any event, it’s worth keeping an eye on these categories for the rest of the season, to see how Dunn does. And even if he doesn’t win the TTOTC, he could still set the single season record for highest TTO% (HR + BB + SO / PA):
Dunn is currently sitting at an incredible 62.8%.