When Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski last fall made the conscious decision to go after Victor Martinez over Adam Dunn in his quest to boost the lineup — and protect Miguel Cabrera from setting the Milky Way galaxy’s record for intentional walks — I was floored.
And I wasn’t the only one. Not by a long shot.
But it sure looks super wise today.
Since coming off the disabled list, Martinez has been mostly a world beater, hitting .339 with two homers and 16 RBIs in 18 games. Along the way, he won an AL player of the week award, and, most importantly, he’s forcing opposing managers to pitch to Cabrera, even with first base open. That’s been the difference in multiple Tigers wins.
Meanwhile, Dunn has been a flop — pre- and post-DL.
At first it was easy to blame the appendectomy for the burly slugger’s early woes. After all, I’m not sure I’d be able to even type too well after having my midsection ripped open, let along swing a hefty piece of lumber at 95-mph fastballs.
But that excuse’s shelf life is long over, and Dunn’s still a bust.
Since signing a four-year, $56 million contract to provide Paul Konerko with some lineup protection and put up gaudy numbers in hitter-friendly U.S. Cellular Field, Dunn, 31, has batted .182 with five homers and 22 RBIs. He was 0-for-4 tonight, with four strikeouts.
But the most surprising statistic is this: He’s faced left-handed pitchers 39 times this year, and has walked five of those times. The other 34? How ’bout 14 strikeouts, and zero hits. That’s a .000 batting average, the astute among you know, tying him with Jorge Posada (.000, 0-for-26) for the most stunningly awful performances against southpaws in 2011.
And it’s not like Dunn always has struggled against lefties. He’s never been great against ‘em, but this poor? Well, that’s just a head-scratcher.
Now, just like the Tigers always believed Martinez, 32, who was signed to a four-year, $50 million deal days before Dunn landed with the Sox, would eventually hit after his slow start, you simply gotta believe Dunn will break loose at some point, too. You don’t average 40 home runs and 100 RBIs over a seven-year period by accident.
“When Adam is at the plate, I don’t care who’s on the mound. We’re feeling very good … about this is the day he gets the hit,” White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said recent, to the Chicago Sun-Times. “But he continues to struggle.”
So does Alex Rios, who, a year after validating GM Kenny Williams’ waiver-wire risk in batting .284 with 21 homers and 88 RBIs, is hitting just .201 with four homers and 13 RBIs.
Those two bats, along with Jake Peavy’s arm, are huge for the White Sox if they hope to make a push in the AL Central. They’re 24-28, after starting 11-22 — a nice resurgence for a team that, for about a month, was considering a four-run game an offensive explosion.
To keep up the winning ways, though, Rios probably has to start contributing. But Dunn must start contributing.
“I’ve just been trying to almost get out of this stupid funk that I’m in by one swing, swinging as hard as I can,” Dunn, who has 65 strikeouts in 156 at-bats in his first tour of the AL (no legit excuse to stink, I say, in this era of constant player movement and interleague play), told MLB.com. “And that’s really not me, I don’t swing as hard as I can, I never have. I needed to just relax and get back to the basics of seeing it and hitting it.”
Easier said than done, apparently.