Adam Dunn is on fire, which means what?
In the first inning last night, Adam Dunn belted a Justin Verlander fastball, one of the best pitches any pitcher in the game possesses, over the center field fence at Comerica Park, one of the toughest places to hit a home run in the game. The homer typified Dunn's longballs this year: It gave the Nationals the lead -- and no one was on base.
Of his team-leading 15 home runs, 11 have come with no one on base. But his homers have come at crucial times - 11 of them have also either tied the score or put the Nationals ahead. The way pitchers approach Dunn has cost him multi-run homers, he said, and his blast off Verlander provided an example.
"He's probably not going to give me a pitch like that with runners on base," Dunn said. "That's what people don't realize. I can't pick and choose when I hit a home run. If I could, I would have zero solos every year. Pitchers, they want quick outs and sometimes they mess up. You don't get usually the same pitches with runners on. And then it gets even harder when you get runners in scoring position. I don't pick and choose."
If you believe that some players are clutch and some aren't, then you probably think Dunn is not. One start that doesn't bode well for Dunn in that regard: He is 0 for 26 with three walks with runners in scoring position and two outs. (Craig Stammen is 3 for 5.)
Put that aside for a moment. Even as the Nationals have stumbled to 11 wins in their past 31 games, Dunn for some time has been the force the Nationals need in the middle of their lineup. "Adam's been pretty good for a while now," Manager Jim Riggleman said. "He's doing his part."
Since May 1, Dunn is hitting .316 with a .390 on-base percentage, a .638 slugging percentage and 11 home runs in 42 games. For the year, his batting average is .284, 33 points above his career average, and his OPS is .955, which would be the best season of his career.
In those games 42 games, the Nationals are 18-24. This leads to what makes Dunn, in my opinion, such a compelling player to analyze. His raw numbers year after year after year suggest he's one of the most powerful, productive hitters in the leagues. He loves to play - only Ichiro Suzuki and Miguel Cabrera have played more games since 2004.
The other side: You can point to Dunn's .210 career batting average with two outs and runners in scoring position* or the fact that his teams are 617-737 when he plays - a winning percentage that comes out to roughly a 74-win season.
*The Dunn's-not-clutch crowd fails to realize that Dunn has actually hit his best in what Baseball-Reference.com deems High Leverage situations and that he hits his worst when the margin in the game more than four runs. But let's leave that out for now.
So either Dunn's team have lost despite his outstanding contributions, or they have lost because one of their most potent players lets them down in the clutch. Where you land probably depends on how you view baseball.* But it's got to be one or the other. You have to pick and choose.
*It's probably clear I'm with the 'despite' crowd.
FROM THE POST
Livan Hernandez in uncharacteristically wild in an 8-3 loss to the Tigers, which continued a rough month for the Nationals, who fell to 11-20 in their past 31 games.
NATS MINOR LEAGUES
Syracuse was off.
Harrisburg 4, New Britain 1: Jason Jones allowed no runs in four innings on two hits and no walks, striking out three. Danny Espinosa, one day after hitting a grand slam, went 3 for 4 with a double and a home run.
Potomac 0, Myrtle Beach 8: Michael Lozada went 2 for 3. Evan Bronson allowed five runs in 4 2/3 innings on nine hits and a walk.
Hagerstown 5, Asheville 4 (Game 1, seven innings) : Justin Bloxom went 2 for 4 with a home run that put the Suns ahead in the top of the seventh. Francisco Soriano homered.
Hagerstown 5, Asheville 2 (Game 2, seven innings): Justin Bloxom went 4 for 4 with another home run, his fourth straight game with a homer. He's batting .320, best in the entire system.
FROM AROUND THE WEB
The Nationals are stuck in a losing trend, Mark Zuckerman writes.
Writing for Sports Illustrated, Joe Sheehan explains how luck concealed the fact that Craig Stammen pitched just as well as Livan Hernandez this year. Not as crazy as it sounds.
Ben Goessling wonders who the real Nationals are.
If you're looking for new desktop wallpaper, Nationals Daily News has a pretty sweet option. do. ui'm
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