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Will teams keep pitching to Adam Dunn?

Adam Dunn continued his home run rampage in the Nationals' win over the Dodgers on Friday night, launching two more to give him 30 for the season and 13 in the past 26 games. Dunn circling the bases has become a familiar sigh, but the Nationals will have to hope another scene does not happen with the same frequency -- Dunn at the plate with the catcher standing up behind him, his mitt extended to signal an intentional walk.

While Dunn has been scorching, Josh Willingham has been slumping behind him and providing little incentive to pitch to Dunn. Last night, after Dunn had blasted two home runs in his first three at-bats, the Dodgers just intentionally walked him with first base open in last two at-bats.

Willingham seemed to be coming out of his post-break funk when he went 4 for 7 with a double and a walk in the first two games in Arizona. Willingham also had two walks since the Nationals came west. But his power has oddly dried up. He has not hit a home run in his last 93 at-bats, and since the break his only four extra-base hits in 68 at-bats have been doubles.

Willingham's ability to get on base and hit for power made him a crucial factor in the Nationals' -- and Dunn's -- offensive success in the first half. Dunn is as hot as can be, and Willingham has fallen into his first rough patch of the season. Though Willingham remains a threat, his current slump may persuade opposing managers to pass on pitching to Dunn.

By Adam Kilgore  |  August 7, 2010; 3:47 PM ET
Categories:  Adam Dunn , Josh Willingham  
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Next: Without Matt Capps, Sean Burnett steps up

Comments

"Josh Willingham has been slumping behind him and providing little incentive to pitch to Dunn."

Well, you know that the batting order is etched in stone and immutable, right?

Posted by: BoteMan | August 7, 2010 4:03 PM | Report abuse

@Adam Kilgore:
Yes, Willingham is in one of his standard 'mid-season' slumps. Meanwhile, Dunn is on one of his 'hot' streaks (granted, this one looks thermonuclear of late). They are both just short-term 'streaks', and will probably return to something close to their mean over the course of the season.

If you were suggest a correction, a simple flip of Willingham & Zimmerman in the lineup (Willingham to #3, Zimmerman to #5, flanking Dunn) would possibly press the issue of intentionally walking Dunn.

Posted by: BinM | August 7, 2010 4:08 PM | Report abuse

@ BinM

I think I would prefer to just flop Dunn and Zimm rather than Zimm and Hammer. That way Dunn remains protected by Zimm and Zimm by Hammer instead of by Morse/Pudge/Someone else depending on the outfield configuration. That also gives a greater change of Zimm batting an extra time over the course of a game...

Just my two cents! In any event, I think Willingham turns it back around...just a little off recently, but he's had some good hacks...

Posted by: HenryStin | August 7, 2010 4:40 PM | Report abuse

I hope Dunn has not played himself out of a job in this frugal organization. His price has to keep rising.

Posted by: EdDC | August 7, 2010 5:03 PM | Report abuse

Dunn claims he is just hitting mistakes (which could just be his awshucks self-effacing nature). With his propensity to strike out opposing pitchers may not be totally awed by his power. Until recently he was hitting mostly solo shots so the damage was minimal, unless he goes deep 2-3 times. Hammer needs to get his groove back not only to protect Dunn but also pick him up when AD K's. Dunn leaves a lot of ducks on the pond.

Posted by: Natmeister | August 7, 2010 5:05 PM | Report abuse

Natmeister: I think it is the aw shucks nature of the man. Otherwise, somehow AD is getting more mistakes than anyone else in the NL. Yes, he Ks a lot, like all sluggers. He went through a period earlier where he left men on base all too often. But year after year he pops 40 or more HRs, and that is likely to continue for awhile. Until Hammer does come out of his slump,it might be time to switch 3 and 4 hitters, as Riggs does from time to time anyway.

Posted by: NatsFly | August 7, 2010 5:37 PM | Report abuse

Another possibility, bat Hammer 2nd until he gets going again and put Morse, who's hitting in a Dunnesque fashion so far, in the fifth spot. Josh has only driven in 19 or so runs in the last two months and the Nats need more production than that from the 5th spot. Hitting second the Nats can take advantage of his OBP and he will get a few extra ABs with big hitters behind him to work through his funk.

Posted by: lesatcsc | August 7, 2010 5:56 PM | Report abuse

Willingham should bat second ... it might bring him out of the slump ...

Posted by: periculum | August 7, 2010 5:59 PM | Report abuse

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