Paul Konerko vouches for Adam Dunn
BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN firstname.lastname@example.org March 29, 2012 10:28PM
Adam Dunn watches his single off Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Aaron Harang in the sixth inning Thursday. | Mark Duncan~AP
Updated: May 1, 2012 8:25AM
GLENDALE, Ariz. — If seeing the ball were only a matter of having 20/20 vision, Adam Dunn wouldn’t have had that disaster of a 2011 season.
“If my vision gets any better, I’ll have X-ray,’’ Dunn said.
Dunn’s vision was fine when he batted .159 with 11 home runs last year, but seeing the ball coming out of the pitcher’s hand was another matter. His bat speed was fine — it just looked slow because his swing was starting late.
This spring has been a different story.
“Oh, he looks dangerous,’’ teammate and hitting authority Paul Konerko said. “Even somebody who doesn’t know anything about hitting can see when he’s getting fastballs, he’s taking a lot of dangerous swings.’’
With four home runs, a .256 average, only six strikeouts and a Cactus League- leading 13 walks, Dunn looks more like the hitter who’s one of eight in history to reel off five straight 40-homer seasons than the guy whose first season with the Sox was one of the great mysteries of 2011.
The difference? Dunn repeatedly talks about how he’s tracking the ball better out of the pitcher’s hand.
“When you’re not balanced, not seeing it good, it looks like fastballs are 120 miles an hour and offspeed pitches are 50,’’ Dunn said. “When you’re seeing the ball like you’re supposed to, it seems like fastballs are looking almost the same speed as offspeed pitches, and that’s a pretty good feeling.’’
Spring-training results don’t always carry over into the regular season, but Konerko says what Dunn is doing is legit.
“The numbers down here can be skewed by the fields and the air, but everything he has done is totally translatable to the season,’’ Konerko said. “Home runs he’s hit would be homers, the base hits would be base hits and the walks, obviously. That’s what you look for as a player.’’
Dunn had high strikeout and walk totals in his good years, so when his strikeouts begin to accumulate at their normal pace — he fanned his first two at-bats against the Dodgers’ Aaron Harang before getting two singles and an RBI on Thursday — don’t be alarmed, Konerko said.
“It’s about doing damage,” Konerko said. “When you’re doing damage when you do hit it, strikeouts don’t matter. In fact, they’re better than a double play.’’
Dunn’s low number of K’s this spring, though, is “amazing,’’ Konerko said.
As Dunn keeps saying, it’s about seeing the ball well. Which has more to do with everything going through a hitter’s head than picking up spin on a pitch, Konerko said.
“Seeing the ball well is a result of getting ready on time,’’ Konerko said. “You can face a guy throwing 90, and it’s in the glove before you can do anything. Other times, it’s like you have all day. It’s about being ready on time. Usually, you’re ready on time when you’re focusing on one simple thought.
“When you’re getting ready late, it’s because you’re thinking about six different things at once, and the next thing, the guy is on the way, and everything is real late and quick. When a guy says he’s seeing the ball well, it means he’s up there dedicated to an approach, and nothing else is getting in the way.
“When the game speeds up on me, it’s because I’m thinking of three or four things that are not part of my approach. When you concentrate on one thing, totally dialed in, the game slows down, and you see the ball well.’’
That’s what’s happening for Dunn, who’s back to being his fun-loving self — playing a serious game of cards in the clubhouse with Jake Peavy’s young sons, retaliating after getting a drink poured down his pants by Jordan Danks and generally having a happy-go-lucky presence.
The real fun will begin if Dunn’s spring results carry over to the regular season.
Seeing is believing.