Can Adam Dunn Help Save the A's?
As the A's have gone from AL West front-runners to a second-place team trying to keep up with the Los Angeles Angels, much of the blame for their recent struggles is traced back to the deadline day trade that sent their star outfielder Yoenis Cespedes to the Boston Red Sox in exchange for Jon Lester.
Not much has gone right for the A's since that day. While they still have scored the most runs in the Majors this year (637 coming into Sunday), they're tied with the Phillies for 20th in the Majors in runs scored in the month of August (102). Their weighted on-base average (wOBA) is 23rd and their weighted runs created (wRC+) is 21st.
Clearly, something had to be done. And on Sunday, Oakland general manager Billy Beane pulled the trigger on yet another deal, acquiring Chicago White Sox 1B/DH Adam Dunn in exchange for a minor league pitcher.
Dunn has had an interesting year to say the least.
His batting average is absolutely terrible, and has struck out in 30.3% of his plate appearances this year, fourth-worst in baseball. Yet his 14.9% walk rate is fifth-best in the Majors, and his isolated power (ISO) of .212 is 17th-best in MLB. His 20 home runs, .340 on-base percentage and wRC+ of 114 are all above league average.
Perhaps most importantly is how he compares to what the A's had, and what they have now.
Comparing Dunn to Cespedes, Oakland is not getting anywhere near the complete player they lost when Yoenis was traded away. Cespedes' defense and athleticism is obviously something Dunn could never replicate. But in terms of offensive numbers, Dunn has put up virtually the same number of home runs, with a better on-base percentage, isolated power, weighted on-base average and weighted runs created than Cespedes. And his nERD of 0.80 means a lineup full of Dunns would score 0.8 runs a game more than a league-average player, better than Cespedes' nERD of 0.74.
Still, it's hard to ignore that difference in fWAR, 3.2-to-0.1 in favor of the young Cuban.
And when compared to John Jaso, who has been Oakland's primary designated hitter, Dunn's numbers aren't all that much better. He's hit many more homers than Jaso (20-to-9), but also has 91 more plate appearances. Jaso's on-base percentage, and wRC+ are both better than Dunn's, while Dunn has more raw power (ISO) and a better wOBA than Jaso.
The A's hit just 22 home runs in August, tied for sixth-best in the American League, and have the fourth-most homers of any AL team this year. They're hoping the addition of Dunn, who is looking to make his first postseason after 1,975 games, will give them some much-needed thump in the middle of the lineup.
But when you break down the numbers, it's not clear how much they gain over Jaso, other than home runs. Both players perform well against right-handed pitching (Dunn's .808 OPS is slightly better than Jaso's .793), and both are equally poor against left-handers (Dunn's OPS of .563 is better than Jaso's .468), so there's no obvious advantage in lefty-righty splits.
Dunn can draw a walk and hit home runs, but he doesn't do much else. If the A's are going to break out of their offensive funk, Dunn can certainly play a role. But it'll be up to the rest of the lineup to snap out of the malaise they're in.
Dunn isn't going to be the savior.