Monday, September 17, 2007

Dunn and Howard

Via Rob Neyer, I came across a good piece comparing Adam Dunn to Ryan Howard. Despite their similar production this year, Dunn has the reputation of a low batting average strikeout machine while Howard is the reigning MVP and toast of Philadelphia.

The article says Howard may break Dunn's single-season strikeout record of 195. I'll go one step further: Howard will shatter the mark, and may be the first slugger to top 200 Ks in a season, unless the Phillies collapse--something they're quite used to by now--and bench him at the end of the year to prevent that from happening. Considering Howard spent time on the DL this season, that's just absurd.

Furthermore, one would expect that Howard, an African-American playing in a city that booed Santa Claus, would have a more difficult time winning the fans' approval. Why is he viewed in such a more positive light?

The MVP award he stole from Albert Pujols last year is one possibility. Perhaps the fans view him as the non-tainted slugger who can take the home run records back from Bonds, McGwire, and Sosa. But the most likely reason is that we all remember his .318 batting average last year. Howard struck out 181 times in 2006, but collected a ton of hits on balls in play. Dunn, by contrast, has topped .250 only once in a full season, and is currently hitting a career-high .269.

Additionally, Howard has the virtue of hitting behind Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley, which gives him plenty more RBI opportunities than Dunn. Howard drove in 149 runs last year, while Dunn's career high is his 104 this year.

Like it or not, the general population is going to keep viewing batting average and RBI as barometers of hitting production. Dunn's going to get the short end of that stick.

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