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Adam Dunn ditches “stupid, stubborn ways” to beat shift

Aug 19, 2013, 11:51 AM EDT

Adam Dunn Getty Images

Adam Dunn looked headed for another miserable season like his 2011 campaign when he was hitting .156 as of June 7. But the White Sox had no choice but to stick with Dunn thanks to his big contract and he’s been on fire since then.

In his last 62 games Dunn has hit .316 with 15 homers and a .988 OPS, bringing his overall batting average from .156 to .239 in two months. How has he done it?

Dan Hayes of reports that Dunn made adjustments at the plate in an effort to pull the ball less and in doing so convinced some teams to stop using extreme shifts against him defensively. Or, as Dunn put it, he ditched his “stupid, stubborn ways” at the urging of third base coach Joe McEwing and the viewing of spray charts.

Hayes’ whole article about Dunn’s change in approach is definitely worth checking out.

  1. eatitfanboy - Aug 19, 2013 at 11:58 AM

    I’ve always wondered why guys who get extreme shifts put on against them don’t work to diversify their hitting. I would take it personally if a team had so little respect for my ability to hit to the opposite field that they would do that. I don’t care how powerful you are pulling the ball, you are making it too easy on the defense by refusing to be a complete hitter.

    • ezthinking - Aug 19, 2013 at 12:52 PM

      Read Ted Williams autobiography. He stubbornly kept hitting into the shift. He managed to do it.

      Dunn must have realized he’s not Ted Williams.

      • eatitfanboy - Aug 19, 2013 at 1:01 PM

        OK, let me rephrase myself. If you are one of the greatest hitters in the history of baseball, go ahead and hit into that shift all day long and twice on Sunday. If you’re Adam Dunn or even Mark Teixiera, you might want to find other ways to get on base.

      • Kevin Gillman - Aug 19, 2013 at 1:45 PM

        They even had shifts back then? I don’t remember them in the 80’s. I just thought it was a modern fascination.

      • mkd - Aug 19, 2013 at 2:23 PM

        It used to call it the Boudreau Shift (for Lou Boudreau):

        The crazy thing is that, as ezthinking points out, Williams refused to alter his approach. You would think that a guy with as much talent as Williams would just slap a few doubles down the leftfield line until they knocked it off, but apparently his theory was f*ck you I’m not changing.

      • Roger Moore - Aug 19, 2013 at 4:45 PM

        @Kevin Gillman:

        Shifts go back a long way. In Babe Ruth’s Own Book of Baseball, Ruth mentioned teams using a shift against him, though that was mostly an outfield shift because he didn’t hit a lot of balls on the ground, and the “Williams shift” was originally used against Ken Williams, one of Ruth’s contemporaries. ISTR that Christy Mathewson mentioned various infield shifts- though none as radical as the Williams shift- in Pitching in a Pinch.

        I think the main reasons that sluggers don’t deliberately adjust their approach against the shift is twofold. On the one hand, the shift doesn’t do quite as much as people think; a lot of the balls that the shift appears to get would have been outs with a conventional defensive alignment. On the other hand, batters are worried that deliberately changing their approach at the plate will mess with their batting style, which will hurt them when there are runners on base and the defense can’t use the shift.

        If Dunn is doing better when he’s trying to hit the ball the other way, maybe that’s because it’s a generally better approach to hitting. There’s a reason hitting coaches have always encouraged hitters to hit the ball where it’s pitched, and it’s because you’re more likely to make good contact that way. And that’s exactly what Dunn has been doing; he’s actually cut down on his strikeouts at the same time he’s been improving his batting average on balls in play.

  2. El Bravo - Aug 19, 2013 at 12:02 PM

    This is false. He started performing the day I picked him up for a spot start on my fantasy squad. He never looked back, started kicking ass, and has been my full time 1B ever since. The correletion is clear and the evidence is bulletproof.

    • badintent - Aug 20, 2013 at 2:19 AM

      and Kennedy was killed by lee Harvey. right

      • largebill - Aug 20, 2013 at 12:03 PM

        Yes, he was.

  3. scoutsaysweitersisabust - Aug 19, 2013 at 12:06 PM

    Makes you wonder why it took him several years to come to the genius idea of hitting the ball where they aren’t.

    • Gamera the Brave - Aug 19, 2013 at 12:18 PM

      Pee Wee Reese is displeased by your lack of use of the word “ain’t.”

      • gonderfan - Aug 19, 2013 at 12:41 PM

        Wee Willie Keeler …

      • Gamera the Brave - Aug 19, 2013 at 1:30 PM

        Damn, damn, damn…

      • scoutsaysweitersisabust - Aug 19, 2013 at 1:46 PM

        I actually considered it, but all of those years getting “ain’t” yelled out of me by my teacher mother took over there.

    • jm91rs - Aug 19, 2013 at 12:19 PM

      Several years? Try his entire freaking career. This guy would have the most extreme shifts I’ve ever seen. As a Reds fan I got so tired of screaming at him to stop pulling the ball. Even a guy with his speed could bunt the ball 3 times out of 10 and get on with those shifts. Glad he finally admitted he was stupid and stubborn.

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Aug 19, 2013 at 12:44 PM

        It is tough to argue with 40 HR a year. I am sure the opposing team would take a bunt single to 3B almost every time if it removed the possibility of the longball. Teixeira tried tweaking his approach to beat the shift, and all it did was take away his pull power. If a guy is wildly successful at something, why change it? Now if that success goes away, as it did for Dunn these last couple of years, a change should be explored. I can’t see much wrong with Dunn’s numbers with the Reds though.

      • dlf9 - Aug 19, 2013 at 1:03 PM

        .300 OBA and .300 SLG … I would be thrilled with that outcome if I were the pitcher.

      • scoutsaysweitersisabust - Aug 19, 2013 at 1:47 PM

        Sorry, I haven’t followed him closely enough to know when the shifts started. I just know the shift in general has gotten more popular the past few years. This makes everything SO MUCH WORSE!

  4. crackersnap - Aug 19, 2013 at 12:26 PM

    So is this Joe McEwing character iwth these “spray chart” thingys one of these nerds from Harvard living in his mother’s basement that I keep hearing about?

  5. Francisco (FC) - Aug 19, 2013 at 12:32 PM

    Paging Ryan Howard…

    • bleedgreen - Aug 19, 2013 at 3:07 PM

      Came to say this. If you’re gonna use the shift, fuck it, I’ll bunt it down the 3rd base line. Too bad they could spot him 25 feet and a catcher could still run him down by 1st base. Start doing silly shit if they’re going to do silly shit. Learn to swing a little later, I don’t know. Learn to adjust with your $25Million a year. Its not like you’re playing much meaningful baseball.

  6. thevauntedchris - Aug 19, 2013 at 12:32 PM

    Are you listening, mark teixeira?

    • bigharold - Aug 19, 2013 at 6:28 PM

      Do you think Dunn would do a Vulcan mind meld with Mark?, .. and Granderson, .. and Cano at times too?

  7. Jeremy Fox - Aug 19, 2013 at 12:46 PM

    Interesting. There’s an analogy here to football, where “taking what the defense gives you” is such a common approach on offense as to be a cliche. Also an analogy to the football notion of making the defense “defend the whole field”. Wonder if in future more hitters will start doing what Dunn’s done.

    Ted Williams of course famously refused to adjust his hitting approach when faced with the “Williams shift”. But if I’m remembering correctly (somebody correct me if I’m wrong) the “Williams shift” was seen as a gimmick or psychological ploy. It wasn’t something Williams faced all the time. Interesting to wonder what Williams would’ve done if he’d faced it all the time, to the point where it began seriously hurting his production.

  8. kinggator - Aug 19, 2013 at 12:56 PM

    Who says you can’t teach an old donkey new tricks!

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