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By Jeff Saukaitis, TSN Contributor - Archive - Email
Hall of Fame future? He's not Dunn yet
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Adam Dunn surely doesn't look like your father's Baseball Hall of Famer.

Heck, Dunn doesn't even look like your Baseball Hall of Famer.

When the mammoth Chicago White Sox slugger recently belted his 400th career home run (he now has 403 through Monday), it brought about an interesting argument: Does Dunn have a realistic chance of one day being inducted into Cooperstown?

In several ways, Dunn doesn't come close to fitting the prototype of a Baseball Hall of Famer. His career batting average is just .240. He also contributes little to nothing defensively. Primarily a designated hitter with the White Sox who sees part-time action at first base and in the outfield, Dunn is anything but a slick fielder.

Then again, there is that home run stroke of his. Dunn hits homers often (he has belted at least 38 of them in eight of his 12 big-league seasons), and the overwhelming majority of them are of the majestic, tape-measure variety.

With a 6-foot-6, 285-pound frame, "Big Donkey" is the ultimate three-true- outcomes slugger. Never has that been more the case than it is this season.

In 545 plate appearances, Dunn has hit 38 home runs, struck out 183 times and walked 89 times. All three totals lead the American League. That means 56.9 percent of the time, Dunn homers, walks or strikes out.

A staggering 41.3 percent of Dunn's hits this season have been home runs. Although he made his second career All-Star Game appearance last month, he has just 92 hits and is batting .204 on the season. His RBI single in Monday's 4-3 loss to Baltimore was just his 39th single of the year.

The best guess is that Dunn will never be a Hall of Fame player. He just doesn't pass the eye test. There are too many warts in his game, and it would be tough to envision 75 percent of the voters one day looking past those warts and placing him on their ballot.

The thing is, even if he merely continues to do the same things he's been doing for six more years or so, it would be wrong to completely dismiss Dunn as a candidate.

He has surpassed 400 home runs at age 32, and he has become only the eighth player in Major League Baseball history to hit 400 homers in his first 12 seasons. The others are Hall of Famers Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Frank Robinson and Eddie Mathews, and likely future Hall of Famers Ken Griffey Jr., Albert Pujols and Alex Rodriguez (if voters overlook A-Rod's steroids admission).

If Dunn stays healthy and plays six or seven more seasons, he has a decent shot at finishing with 600 career homers. OK, Dunn is one-dimensional. If he's so fantastic in that one most glamorous category, though, wouldn't he have to at least garner Hall of Fame consideration?

Aside from home runs, Dunn has other positive offensive attributes. Because he walks so often, he has a solid career on-base percentage of .371. His career slugging percentage is .502. Mathews, the great former Braves third baseman, by comparison, had a .376 on-base percentage and a .509 slugging percentage. Offensively, at least on paper, they look like very similar players.

Mathews hit 512 career homers, which is a number Dunn should have little trouble surpassing. If he beats that total by 100 or so, will it be enough to overcome the 30-point difference in career batting average? Will it be enough to overcome the fact that Mathews played respectable defense, while Dunn's best defensive position was designated hitter?

Again, those will be interesting questions for Hall of Fame voters to answer about 12-15 years from now.

Another perception that will probably work against Dunn's future Hall of Fame candidacy is that the player most baseball fans probably compare him to is three-true-outcomes slugger Dave Kingman, a three-time all-star who played for seven teams in a career that spanned the 1970s and '80s.

There certainly have been similarities between them. Kingman finished with 442 homers and a .236 career batting average. He was also a below-average defender in the outfield and at first base who ended his playing days primarily as a designated hitter.

That, however, is where the similarities end. Kingman was a big-time slugger in his day. After all, he's one of the few 400-plus home run hitters with no steroid rumors in his past who is eligible for the Hall of Fame and has not been inducted.

Kingman's slugging percentage, though solid, was .478 - 24 points lower than Dunn's. The difference between the hitters was much more pronounced in on-base percentage. Kingman's was just .302. Amazingly, he never drew more than 62 walks in any of his 16 major-league seasons.

So, while Kingman's OPS was a pedestrian .780, Dunn has almost always been elite in that category, with a career mark of .873.

There's still about a third of Dunn's career yet to be played, most likely. Sluggers like Dunn sometimes don't age well. If Dunn fails to get to 600 home runs, he will almost certainly never get to see his plaque in Cooperstown.

On the other hand, if Dunn's power and on-base skills remain intact for a while, he could eventually make it difficult for voters to completely dismiss him.

He's going to strike out more than 200 times this year, and his batting average is no lock to end up above the Mendoza line. And this season is hardly atypical for Dunn.

No one is saying Dunn is the perfect player. In fact, he's far from it. Nevertheless, consistently driving in runs and getting on base are what offensive contribution is all about, and Dunn can have hope that Hall of Fame voters will decide that those positive attributes outweigh high strikeout totals and low batting averages.



Jeff Saukaitis is a former Sports Network writer/editor who has been a professional sportswriter since 1985.