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Arizona Diamondbacks on the 2020 Hall of Fame ballot: Adam Dunn

Big Donkey’s stay in Arizona was a brief one, but memorable in particular for one moment.

Arizona Diamondbacks v San Francisco Giants

The 2020 Hall of Fame ballot is out, and this year, there are quite a few players with with Arizona connections who have been added to the list. [They join Curt Schilling, who is there for his eighth season, and so there’s probably no particular need to rehash that argument for now. Maybe in two years’ time...] There probably isn’t much chance of any of them making it - odds are, most will be “one and done”, but let’s just review their chances, along with their time for the Diamondbacks.

Adam Dunn in Arizona

Adam Dunn spent the least time of any of them in the Diamondbacks’ organization. Less than three months, with only 44 games played for Arizona. He came to the desert, along with a suitcase of cash, in a post-deadline deal (Kids! Ask your parents!) on August 11, 2008, in a deal with the Cincinnati Reds. We sent Dallas Buck and two players to be named later, who ended up being Wilkin Castillo and pitcher/hitter extraordinaire Micah Owings. None of that trio ended up providing any positive value for the Reds, So even though Dunn was purely a rental, hitting free-agency at the end of the 2008 season, it’s hard to say the D-backs lost much in the trade.

However, you’d be hard pushed to say the deal helped Arizona. At the time of the trade, we were engaged in a dog-fight for the NL West, closing the day just one game up on the Dodgers, Dunn was intended to provide a big offensive upgrade at right and first, mostly over Chad Tracy who had an OPS+ of 83 that year. You could argue that it did deliver there. Dunn hit eight home-runs in those 44 games, with almost as many walks as strikeouts (a K:BB of 44:42), for an OPS+ of 127. He also provided what remains the longest home-run ever hit in the history of Chase Field, the blast below estimated at 504 feet, edging out by one foot the previous record-holder, Richie Sexson’s Jumbotron breaker.

But any value he provided at the plate was undone by his completely dreadful defense. As measured by Baseball Reference’s Runs From Fielding, Dunn was worth -11, more than countering the +5 he provided in Runs Batting. The net result was a bWAR of -0.4 in barely a quarter of a season. The team would have been little if any worse off sticking with Tracy, who was worth -0.7 bWAR in twice as many games as Dunn. Though not entirely due to Dunn, the D-backs could only play .500 ball the rest of the way, going 22-22 and missing out on repeating at division champions to the Dodgers by two games, with an 82-80 record. The left-handed slugger duly walked, signing a two-year, $20 million deal with Washington.

Hall of Fame chances

He hit more career dingers than Carl Yastrzemski, Jeff Bagwell, and Vlad Guerrero.

He drove in more runs than Tony Gwynn, Roberto Alomar, and the inimitable Joe Morgan.

His career OPS was better than those of Eddie Collins, Jim Rice, and Reggie Jackson.

He walked more in his career than Ken Griffey, Jr., who went into the Hall of Fame with the rest of the names listed here with some 99.3% of votes in his first year on the ballot.

On defense, he...well, he had a glove on most of the time.
— Wick Terrell, Red Reporter

Dunn’s time with the Diamondbacks was only a tiny fraction of his major-league career, which lasted fourteen seasons and over two thousand games. He was an All-Star twice, a decade separating appearances in 2002 and 2012, and received MVP votes three times, as well as finishing fourth in Rookie of the Year voting during his debut season in 2001. His best campaign was probably the 2004 one with Cincinnati, where Dunn batted .266 with 46 home-runs, good enough for an OPS+ of 147. But he also struck out 195 times, the first of three consecutive seasons where he led the league. He also did so in 2012, fanning 222 times, the second most in MLB history (one behind Mark Reynolds for Arizona in 2007).

While inducted into the Reds’ Hall of Fame in 208, his Cooperstown credentials stem mostly from Adam’s power: 462 career home-runs rank 37th all-time, tied with Jose Canseco. By Bill James’ Hall of Fame Monitor, Dunn scores a 75, with a likely HoF player rated as a 100. He’s very much a poster-boy for the offense first school of play, All told in his career, he put up 35.2 offensive WAR but, just as in his time here, this is severely balanced by a defensive WAR figure of -28.9. That’s the lowest figure in the entire history of the metric, with only Dunn and Gary Sheffield coming in at lower than -24. Largely as a result of this, Dunn played mostly at first-base from 2010 on, in an effort to limit his defensive indifference.

Nationals GM’ Mike Rizzo defended the player, saying “The way he was misconstrued [in Cincinnati] was almost unbelievable. He plays banged up. He’d go out there 162 games if you’d let him. [Except Pujols] he’s the most consistent player in the game the last six years. He’s not a cheerleader. But if there is still such a thing as a leader by example in this game, he is it. He’s a pillar in the clubhouse.” But in these more analytical days, it’s harder for a one-dimensional player to get into Cooperstown. And of the hundred players to have hit more than 340 home-runs, only Ryan Howard and Dave Kingman had careers which were worth less than Dunn’s 17.4 bWAR.

He’s certainly not going to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. He’s almost certainly not going to make it in, at all. In fact, I’d give him a very real chance of not reaching the 5% quota needed simply to remain on the ballot, though I imagine there are still a number of voters who still go “DINGERZ!” and check his box. What do you think?


Will Adam Dunn get the 5% needed to remain on the ballot?

This poll is closed

  • 31%
    Yes, DINGERZ!
    (35 votes)
  • 68%
    No, D-FENZ!
    (77 votes)
112 votes total Vote Now