Oh, why the heck not. DeRosa vs. Dunn
Only with Cub fans is this debate even possible, but here we are, measuring journeyman Mark DeRosa with mammoth power hitter Adam Dunn.
In case you don't follow the GROTA ShoutBox, a debate has been ensuing in which certain readers have been taking an interesting approach in marking out to Mark DeRosa.
A brief summary of the debate - I have been arguing for a month or so now that DeRosa would be an inadequate right fielder. Contrary to what some argue, I don't think he has the arm to be a plus defense right fielder - but that pales in comparison with DeRosa's likelihood of being one of the worst-hitting right fielders in baseball next year. It's not that he'll be a bad hitter by any means. It's just that if he matches his career average, or even his 3-year-splits, he'll be in the bottom half offensively of all right fielders next year.
This becomes problematic because the Cubs are likely to see a decline in overall offensive production, and I'm advocating that, rather than passively allow for that to happen, Jim Hendry should try to stem the proverbial tide by picking up another bat to play right field. Besides, even at his career averages, DeRosa is a plus hitter amongst second baseman. Unless the Cubs are going to acquire a stud to replace his bat at the two-bag, making up for the poorer production of DeRo as a right fielder, I'd rather see the team go for a big bat.
One Goat Reader - well, lots actually - suggested that the booming production of Adam Dunn would look nice in the Cubs lineup. The guy bats lefty, he hits the ball a mile, and he's a career .286 hitter at Wrigley Field.
Some people - in particular Nick V and miltie - take the stance that Dunn gets his hits when nobody is on base. Actually, here's where this debate falls harder into the general argument of the value of RBI.
You've got guys like Joe Carter, who was an RBI machine throughout his career. He drove in 100 or more 10 times in his career, despite being a .259 hitter. Then, there are guys like Adam Dunn, who might hit 40 homeruns and drive in 101 RBI - a low total for so many homers. So, here's the question that has really sprung the debate - if Dunn can't drive in more than 100 RBI, does that mean he can't hit with men on base? Does that mean he's not productive the way the Cubs need?
The problem with Dunn in general is that he doesn't get many hits in general. He's a .250 hitter at best. But when he hits the ball, he mashes it. And even when he doesn't hit the ball, he still has a 40% chance of not making an out.
The comparison here is between Dunn and DeRosa, because "Dunn's #'s with RISP do not seem to better than DeRosa's" - the inference here is that you might as well start DeRo in right and stick him wherever Dunn would bat.
Here's what it boils down to. Dunn in the past 3 seasons had 693 at bats in which one or more runner was on base. DeRosa - who doesn't even bat in the "sweet spot" of the lineup like Dunn actually had more - 726. Although in terms of overall plate appearances, it was Dunn 861, DeRosa 819, but Adam walked way more than Mark in that time-span.
Regardless, despite having 33 fewer at bats, and 54 fewer hits, Dunn drove in 20 more RBI over a 3 year span with runners on in front of him. DeRosa's overall average was .300, to Dunn's .237, but Dunn was still the more productive batter in terms of RBI - an apparently important figure to Nick V. and miltie.
Ultimately, the ability to "hit with runners on" or "hit in the clutch" does not exist, except for David Ortiz for a 3-or-so-year span in Boston. The stats don't lie - over the span of a career, a hitter will often come very close to matching his career average whether he has runners on or not. But regardless of whether or not a guy is batting .300 or .250 - or even .237 - he'll drive in way more runs when he's batting behind a Ricky Henderson and a Mark Grace, rather than a Corey Patterson and a Neifi Perez. It has little to do with the batter and everything to do with the situation.
But I will allow for this - while I don't believe in "clutch" hitting, I do believe in anti-clutch. The myth of the player who can always get the big hit is overrated, but the reality of the player who loses himself and under-produces in important situations is a harsh reality. Just ask 2004 Corey Patterson and Aug-Sept 2004 Sammy Sosa. But don't ask the guy who hit 53 of his last 120 homeruns with runners on base, because the Cubs would be guaranteed to score more runs if he was around.
So. What can we conclude from all of this? 1) Dunn rakes. 2) He and DeRo are different types of players. 3) The Cubs would be offensively superior with Dunn in right. 4) RBI totals are a product of opportunities, not skill. While it's true that the guy with superior ability will aways be more likely to drive in more RBI, the guy who'll drive in the most runs is the one with the most opportunities. And 5) the fact that we're comparing Dunn to DeRo is Cub markdom at its worst. The two just don't compare. There's nothing wrong with appreciating DeRosa, he's a fine #2 hitter and a good second baseman, but why are we working ourselves into a mark lather over the guy? I just don't get it.