Saturday, September 24, 2011

Adam Dunn Chases History

You've been reading all year about how terrible Adam Dunn has been.  What's the root of the problem?  Will he re-discover his stroke next year?  Will he retire?  Is this the worst season of all-time given that he plays designated hitter?  Is it the most inexplicable drop-off in performance ever?  Was he the worst free agent signing ever?

Dunn reacts after striking out... again.
Those questions may be answered in the future, and some may never be answered.  But there is one we will have a definite answer to in less than a week: will Adam Dunn break the record for lowest batting average for a player who qualified for the batting title in the modern era (since 1900)?

Here, I am using the modern definition of qualifying for the batting title, which is a minimum of 3.1 PA per team game.  In the past, other standards have been used, including playing in 60% of team games prior to 1920.  Bill Bergen qualified at the time with a .139 average in 1909, and again in 1906 at .159, for the lowest batting averages of the modern era.  However, in both of those years he wouldn't have been particularly close to being eligible for the batting title according to the modern standard, as he only averaged around 2.4 PA per team game in both seasons.

Here's a full list of the worst qualified batting averages of the modern era:

Click to enlarge
Even if you don't care for that bit of posturing, Dunn at the very least is looking to claim the lowest qualified batting average--period--since 1910.

After yet another hitless game yesterday, Dunn's average currently rests at .163 through 481 plate appearances.  The White Sox have five games remaining, and Dunn needs to hit the 502 mark to qualify for the batting title.  That's a tall task, as he needs to come to the plate 21 times in that span.  Considering that he's only averaging 3.06 plate appearances per team game thus far, and has only appeared in 75 percent of Chicago's games on the year, it wouldn't appear likely.

Of course, it's much more telling to look at how much he has been playing lately to determine if he will crack the barrier.  After playing sporadically through the first half of September, Dunn has been in the lineup each of the last 8 games--including both games of a doubleheader on September 20--and has accumulated 33 trips to the plate in the process.  That's exactly what he would need to do over the next five days to make history, so it looks like Ozzie Guillen is doing his part.

If Dunn makes it to the mark, he's already essentially clinched the worst qualified average since 1914.  Rob Deer owns that honor for the time being, with a .179 average in 1991.  In order to overcome that, Dunn would have to do something like get 10 hits in 20 at bats to end the year, which would bring him up to .179.  Congratulations Rob, it seems as if you are out of the ignominious record book.  And before Dunn, Deer had had a stranglehold on the record, as .194 was the second-worst qualified mark since 1950, and .185 was the second-worst qualified mark since 1920.

If he merely stays at .163, Dunn will have the fourth-worst qualified average since 1900, the worst since 1910, and the absolute worst using today's 3.1 PA/team game standard for qualification.  He's got a very good chance to move into third-worst place since 1910 if he can merely put together a 2-for-16 stretch together to end the season, and if he can do something along the lines of 1-for-20 he can nab the second-worst average of the modern era.

Today the White Sox go against Royals lefty Everett Teaford, which may mean Dunn will be out of the lineup.  That would cripple his chances of reaching the 502-plate appearance plateau.  After that it's all righthanders, so let's hope Ozzie sees this opportunity for what its worth.

Only 7 players since 1950 have managed to hit under .200 while coming to the plate often enough to qualify for the batting title.  Since 1920, that number is 14.  Adam Dunn has a chance to blow them all away.  While the Twins fight against the current sweeping them towards an embarrassing 100 losses, Adam Dunn is faced with the potential of holding a much more ignominious place in baseball history.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Let us hear your thoughts!