There's been a shift in the dialogue about Adam Dunn.
Going in, it was extremely important to temper expectations.
Adam Dunn said he doesn't put any stock into spring training numbers, saying if he hits .500 w/ 20 HR it prob won't translate to reg season.
But now, Adam Dunn is doing something that is the realistic equivalent of hitting .500 with 20 HRs. He's hitting .308/.526/.846 with 2 HRs off of pretty live arms in Jordan Walden and Neftali Feliz. That's only 19 plate appearances, but he's only struck once in those 19 plate appearances. Once! Even A.J. Pierzynski thinks that much contact is unsustainable. There's a lot of work to be done to convince anyone he can be a valuable contributor again, and that's a roaring start.
Dunn isn't walking around wearing custom-made t-shirts with his Spring Training triple-slash numbers printed on them. but such success does prompt the opportunity to pontificate on what process leads to such success.
“I feel so much better earlier than I did last year,” he said. “Last spring, with about two weeks left, I started to feel good. This year, about a week or week and a half in, I (felt) like I could be ready (for the season) tomorrow.”
“I know by how my body feels and how my swing feels, not necessarily result-wise but whether I’m seeing the ball good,” he said. “If I’m seeing the ball good, everything else will take care of itself.”
As Jim already noted this morning, this sort of vague, generalized positivism is still streets ahead of the type of language Dunn used last Spring, when he warned of a slow start.
Additionally--just for extras!--Dunn threw out the nugget that apparently last April's appendectomy was actually a huge deal for his 2011 performance this entire time.
Dunn now says there “is no doubt in my mind” his April appendectomy caused his season to disintegrate after a strong opening day.
“I was never the same,” he said. “I came back too soon, and I couldn’t even bend like I should have (while batting). And it threw my swing way off.”
Which is, of course, in significant contrast to his earlier musings on the topic of his former vestigial structure, and even different than the perception he gave to Ken Rosenthal in another recent "Things will be different this year" piece.
To hear Dunn tell it, his problems were mostly mechanical. He is not one for excuses. He doesn’t talk about how he rushed back from his appendectomy in early April, missing only six days. He doesn’t talk about the difficulty of adjusting to the DH role, or anything like that.
“Last year, I was worried about the wrong things as far as where my hands are,” Dunn says. “Ninety percent of what happened was simple, mental. I got lazy with my legs. That’s what happened, pretty much. I worried about everything else but that."
A revelation about how much the appendectomy bothered him last season seems dubious due to the timing, but the description by Rosenthal is apt. Dunn has not been forthcoming with excuses, and is only coming to this one in hindsight. It's hard to imagine that if he could have pointed a finger at a single tangible cause last season that things would have descended to such interminable depths.
Really, in the wake of a stretch of performance that probably would have resulted in termination in industries less prone to guaranteed contracts, the emphasis throughout Dunn's interviews is him simply looking for something that differentiates this season from last. Every player comes into Spring Training selling the future, but no one needs to make a better case than Adam.
Beyond feeling better, every tangible explanation for why the most consistent hitter in the game became the worst one is on the table, which brings back up the appendectomy, and of course, Spring Training stats.
Which...I'd rather not do. If Spring Training stats are to be any indication of where a player is at, then half the team is in the gutter, and even if it's all about just seeing the ball well, then Dayan Viciedo still needs Lasik.
The torture of Spring is the flood of unusable information, and Dunn's struggles stretch all analysis outside our best practices.