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Average figures into the equation for Adam Dunn

Chicago White Sox Vs MinnesotTwins.  White Sox No.32 Adam Dunn strikes out end inning. Thursday July 7 2011 I

Chicago White Sox Vs Minnesota Twins. White Sox No.32 Adam Dunn strikes out to end the inning. Thursday July 7, 2011 I Scott Stewart~Sun-Times

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Updated: April 15, 2014 6:34AM



GLENDALE, Ariz. — Adam Dunn is all about production — home runs and runs batted in — but at some point batting average has to figure into the equation.

Dunn has hit 41 and 34 home runs for the White Sox the past two seasons. But with batting averages of .204 and .219, he’s dipping into the all-or-nothing territory of Dave Kingman and Rob Deer — two sluggers who never made the postseason in a combined 27 seasons as a full-time player in the major leagues.

Dunn likewise has yet to make the postseason in his first 13 big-league seasons. It’s been a frustrating run for the big guy. His three previous teams — the Reds, Diamondbacks and Nationals — all made the playoffs after he left.

Probably a lot of tough luck. But it’s also possible that too many strikeouts and too few hits in the middle of a batting order ultimately are a drag on an offense. A walk isn’t always as good as a hit. Walks don’t advance runners from first to third. They don’t score runners from first or second base. But hits do.

So it would seem that the challenge for Dunn this season — the final year of a four-year, $56 million contract — simply is to get more hits without sacrificing too many home runs.

‘‘How important is it to me? It’s not,’’ Dunn said. ‘‘I care about on-base [percentage] — getting on base. However I do that, I don’t care. Obviously the higher your batting average, the higher your on-base will be. But if I walk 200 times and get 100 base hits, that’s fine.’’

Dunn’s struggle to hit even better than .220 have been a mystery to himself and the White Sox. He was a career .260 hitter with a .381 on-base percentage and .902 OPS when he arrived in 2011. The year before, he hit .260 with 38 home runs and 103 RBI for the Nationals.

But in three seasons in Chicago, Dunn has been unable to match those numbers: a .197 batting average, .317 on-base percentage and .772 OPS. Can he still hit .260?

‘‘Yeah, I could do it. I’ve done it [before],’’ he said. ‘‘I don’t go out there trying to hit .200. I’m just going to stay the course and if they fall in they fall in.’’

The White Sox would like to get more out of Dunn than they’ve gotten, but it doesn’t appear to be an urgent matter. Dunn had 41 homers and 96 RBI in 2012; he had 34 homers and 86 RBI in 2013. They’re not going to ask for more hits at the risk of losing home runs.

‘‘You can say what you want about batting average, but as long as you’re producing runs for the team — RBIs, being on base — that’s a positive,’’ White Sox hitting coach Todd Steverson said. ‘‘Of course you’d like to see his average higher. But average isn’t everything. I’ve said it before about [Dayan] Viciedo — I don’t think anybody would be happy if he hit .280 and 10 homers.’’

Steverson said he sees signs that Dunn can hit for a higher average this season. ‘‘He’s got a good frame of mind,’’ Steverson said. ‘‘He is self aware. He can take an at-bat now and go ‘I know what’s wrong.’ That’s huge for a guy like that. If you can feel it, you can fix it.’’

Dunn said he ‘‘might feel a little better at this time of year than I have in the past’’ but doesn’t know if that means anything. ‘‘I don’t put too much stock in the spring — good or bad,’’ he said.

The always easy-going Dunn is just doing what he does and hoping for the best. He’s never let the attention bother him before and he’s not going to start now.

‘‘People are kind a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately deal,’’ Dunn said. ‘‘I can’t take back what’s happened. It’s a new year. I’m going to treat it that way.’’

With 442 homers, 1,114 RBI and a .238 batting average, Dunn has career numbers similar to Kingman (440 homers, 1,210 RBI, .236 batting average). It would be an unfair for Dunn — a stand-up guy and good teammate — to have to share a similar legacy as Kingman — a noted lout and negative influence. Kingman’s only postseason appearance was a rookie with the Giants in 1971. Dunn still is looking for his first playoff appearance.

‘‘That’s why you play the game,’’ Dunn said. ‘‘I don’t need anything to validate my career. It is what it is. I’m doing it because that’s what you’re supposed to be playing the game for — to win a ring. And you can’t do that unless you get in the playoffs.’’

Email: mpotash@suntimes.com

Twitter: @markpotash



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