Adam Dunn has missed his last six games, and eight out of his last 11. His comeback effort has hit a roadblock. The roadblock is that he's not getting better.
Adam Dunn tried to hit 2x but hasn't seen enough progress w/ oblique to play. Ventura said was same as Tues & "not worth having him go."
— Dan Hayes (@DanHayesCSN) September 12, 2012
This comes right after Dunn received an injection to reduce the pain. That doesn't put his return for the last game of this swiftly declining Detroit series in a positive light, and since there are only 20 games left, it doesn't put any kind of return in the greatest of lights.
As annoying as it's been to watch Dunn bat under .200, and be close to replacement-level in raw production since June 1st, he was useful. He's a big left-handed presence in the lineup, he sees a lot of pitches and works counts, 38 home runs is a lot of home runs, he was awesome in that Minnesota series he should have never played in, and he really tied the lineup together.
It's hard to quantify exactly, but his presence has been missed. However, while there's no way to replace Dunn--his skill set is unique in baseball, not just the roster--the Sox do have the elements to make a fun platoon with.
For one, there's Dewayne Wise. Surely, you're familiar with Dewayne Wise. He's played the last eight games in a row, and all but one game this month. He even appears to have stolen the center field position from Alejandro De Aza based on Wednesday night's lineup--one night after he nearly fell over backwards catching a routine fly ball.
Ventura's affection for Wise is well-earned--he's still has an OPS over 1.000 for the month of September, and Dayan Viciedo is a mess--but starting him in a more athletically demanding position over a man six years his junior is taking it too far. Moreso was starting him (leadoff, I might add) versus a left-hander on Saturday. Against righties, Dewayne Wise has been a monstrous .308/.352/.521 all season. Against lefties, Wise is Adam Dunn without the walks, which is to say he has no real means of getting on base.
Fortunately, he has a complement in Dayan Viciedo. Presently, Dayan Viciedo is Jonny Gomes--a pure, extreme platoon masher of lefties. That would be a heartbreaking final end for him, but it's a useful is used correctly reality for right now. Against lefties, Viciedo walks from time to time (6%), becomes an elite contact hitter (12.1 K%), and taps into his prodigious power (.257 ISO) for a final package of .349/.388/.606. When there is a lefty starter, Viciedo should play, and no manager's pet should be able to stay in his way.
Unfortunately, Wise's recent grab for every day play has pushed Viciedo into the DH rotation that should really be more about at-bats for Dan Johnson and Tyler Flowers.
Johnson started Wednesday night and looked good for himself in going 2 for 3 with a walk. His career splits suggest he's equal opportunity mediocre, but he pounded righties in AAA this year before a huge second-half fade. He's legitimately left-handed, but interest doesn't travel much further than that.
Tyler Flowers is interesting in that he smacked four home runs in August, smacked another one during his last start, but hasn't found the field this series due to reliance on A.J. Or Flowers is interesting because he too owes all of his success to his performance against lefties. Tyler has a massive platoon split this year that has him hitting for a 1.000 OPS with five of his seven home runs against lefties. He really should be on the same plan as Viciedo, which would allow for the following set-up.
LF - Dayan Viciedo
C - Tyler Flowers
DH - A.J. Pierzynski
LF - Dewayne Wise
C - A.J. Pierzynski
DH/1B - Dan Johnson
Starting Viciedo against right-handers has been mostly curtailed, but persistence with Wise is yanking a potential impact bat from the lineup vs. lefties. Unfortunately, there's no lefty starter cued up to face the Sox until Bruce Chen at the end of the Kansas City series.
In the mean time, that leaves a slate of underwhelming options against righties that includes "hope Tyler Flowers can extend his success to righties", "hope Dayan Viciedo reigns it in", but is probably topped by "hope Dan Johnson can produce at his league-average career rates".
A solid game Wednesday will do a lot for Johnson, because if Wise is any proof, we've reached the point of the season where hot hands can buy themselves a great deal of playing time, and Dayan Viciedo has already been pushed aside once.
Get well soon, Adam. Debates on Dan Johnson usage aren't good for anyone.