Adam Dunn’s stats are better than they look
BY JOHN GROCHOWSKI For Sun-Times Media June 18, 2012 8:36PM
Chicago White Sox's Adam Dunn during a spring training baseball workout in Phoenix, Monday, Feb. 27, 2012. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Updated: July 20, 2012 6:25AM
Adam Dunn entered Monday night’s game between the White Sox and Cubs with a .227 batting average. Not too many years ago, that would have had fans wondering if he was ready for the scrap heap, or at least consigned to the Dave Kingman home-run-or-very-little segment of baseball production.
But Dunn also entered the night with a .944 OPS thanks to 53 walks to go with his 23 home runs, and fans have come to understand that’s very valuable indeed.
OPS, the sum of on-base percentage and slugging percentage, isn’t perfect. Measures such as David Smyth’s base runs or Bill James’ runs created correlate better to team runs scored. OPS undervalues getting on base and especially walks.
On-base percentage gives equal weight to walks, hit-by-pitch and all hits. Slugging percentage doesn’t count walks, while doubles are multiplied by two, triples by three and home runs by four.
We can simplify that and say our count is walks and HBP x 1, singles x 2, doubles x 3, triples x 4 and home runs x 5. Problem: Singles are more valuable than walks because they advance runners even if first base isn’t occupied, but they’re not twice as valuable. Statistics with a closer correlation to runs give more weight to walks.
Still, OPS uses easy, familiar components, and it does give a more complete picture of a hitter than trying to sort by batting average. It tells us that even with his low BA, Dunn does more to put runs on the board than a .314 hitter like the Yankees’ Derek Jeter, who had a .784 OPS through Sunday. In fact, the only American League hitters who ranked ahead of Dunn in OPS were Josh Hamilton (1.064), Paul Konerko (1.025), David Ortiz (.993) and Mark Trumbo (.991).
A little tweaking can be done with OPS to yield a stat called OPS+ that does a couple of useful things. It adjusts for the effects of the ballparks, using stats compiled by a team and its opponents. It also normalizes to league average. A 100 OPS+ indicates a league-average hitter, while a 90 is 10 percent below league average and 110 is 10 percent above.
Dunn’s 150 OPS+ as listed at baseball-reference.com puts him in the AL upper echelon, with Konerko (174), A.J. Pierzynski (120), Alex Rios (118) and Alejandro De Aza (105) all above league average in the Sox lineup. Among Cubs regulars, Bryan LaHair (153), Alfonso Soriano (114), David DeJesus (104) and Starlin Castro (102) crack the 100 mark.
GLOSSARY: OPS. The sum of on-base percentage and slugging percentage. OPB is the sum of hits, walks and hit-by-pitch, divided by the sum of at-bats, walks hit-by-pitch and sacrifice flies. SLG is total bases divided by at-bats.