White Sox Season Preview 2011 - The War on Southern Regression - Adam Dunn

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David Santiago, McClatchy-Tribune

The first televised Spring Training game for the White Sox isn't till the 28th, and I'm not even sure I have MLB Network.  From now until I try to explain to my father over the phone how to use his DVR, I'll be getting the previewing started by covering what the big factors for the White Sox' success in 2011 will hinge on.  This is the first chapter, and in time I'll create a tab to put all these pieces on.

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So often you'll hear about a bad team "they're not bad, they're just young".  This statement is of course, wrong, because the team is bad as they are losing, in the here and now.  But it's also true.  While they may be bad, organizations with very young rosters are not hopeless, as there are brighter days waiting once the inconsistencies of youth subside.  Old teams that are bad, well, they're just screwed.  While ever player has off-years, if a player is in their 30s, and playing some of his worst ball, chances are something other than "he's going through a divorce", or "his chi is out of wack", or "his backup is grinding glass into his water bottle" is at work. 

It's regression.  It comes for everyone, and it must always be monitored.

The White Sox are going for the 'ship this season, and aren't going to sabotage themselves by enduring the inconsistency of youth, but that also means they're betting against regression, and betting hard.  It's not as bad as it sounds, but it's something to look out for. 

So follow the jump already.

The Candidates

Adam Dunn

Why he might be on the downslide: Adam finally got his big contract at age 31, and it was well-deserved, if not puzzling why a man who has averaged over 35 home runs a season for ten years couldn't land a long-term deal two off-seasons ago.  Now, after maintaining his production level two more years, he comes to the South Side with two very small red flags.  First he's a big hulking-power hitter with old-player skills.  Players who rely on pitch-recognition and power, tend to age poor.  A lot more so than players who rely on high-contact levels, and then transition to being low-average, high-power guys later on (see Thomas, Frank).  That's more of a general concern about players like Dunn, and not Dunn himself. 

For Dunn personally, his walk-rate was 11.9% last season.  That's really, really good, and if Dayan Viciedo posted an 11.9% BB-rate this Spring Training I'd cry on the floor for hours in joy like MJ after the '96 Finals.  But for Dunn, it was a career low, and was coupled with a career-high strikeout rate.  Because it was only one year, what precipitated Dunn's relative lapse in plate discipline could have simply been him gunning for a big deal, or compensating for decreased bat-speed with aggression.  Who knows?  But his walk-rate was the key factor in his high-strikeout, low average ways being palatable, and it can't afford to get much lower.

Why this is crazy-talk: It does seem kinda like nitpicking to fret about someone as consistent as Adam Dunn.  This is a man who has hit 38 home runs or more in the major leagues 7 YEARS IN A ROW.  Last season was by no means out of line with his production levels, and while his age makes it a risk for him to stay great throughout the life of his contract, 2011 is not a real concern.  Any real regression in ability this season is likely to get covered up by moving to a grain silo.

Wow, this was crazy-long.  We're breaking this into multiple posts.  Thoughts on Paul Konerko, A.J. Pierzynski, Mark Buehrle, Juan Pierre, Carlos Quentin's Defense, and maybe even Jake Peavy to follow.

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