Some fun Adam Dunn chatter in the past few days, with Nationals’ President Stan Kasten saying that if Dunner wants a contract extension in Washington, he’ll have to improve his defense at first base, where he’ll probably be assigned on a permanent basis going forward. Dunn, who is a pretty agreeable fellow, agreed, saying that he knows he needs to get better at first and will dedicate his spring training to doing so. Over the weekend, Nats’ manager Jim Riggleman gave what sounds like an overly-rosy assessment of where Dunn currently stands as a first baseman, basically saying that range is his only problem.
So, is there any hope at all for Adam Dunn, full-time first baseman?
Probably not. Certainly not if you go by Fangraphs’ Ultimate Zone Rating — commonly abbreviated to UZR — which quantifies the number of runs above or below average a fielder is after accounting for both range and sure handedness. No defense stat is perfect, but UZR is generally considered by those who care about such things to be pretty darn good.
Over the course of his career, Dunn has played approximately a full season’s worth of games at first base. Dunn’s UZR over that time? -17.9 per 150 games. To put that in perspective, the worst first baseman in UZR per 150 games last season was Billy Butler at -7.4. Only twice in the eight years for which Fangraphs has UZR data has anyone recorded a UZR/150 as bad as Adam Dunn’s career mark: Mike Jacobs in 2008 and Adam LaRoche in 2005, and both of those were severe outliers when compared to the rest of those guys’ careers.
I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Adam Dunn will be the worst defensive first baseman in baseball in 2010. He may challenge for the title of all-time worst. Perhaps he will do less damage there than he will in left field, but if the Nats have any plan for Dunn in 2010 that does not involve hoping he hits like crazy in April and May and trying to trade him to the AL in June, they’re nuts.
Veteran utilityman Reid Brignac is in camp with the Astros on a minor league deal. The 31-year-old is close to being done as a major leaguer as he owns a career .219/.264/.309 triple-slash line across parts of nine seasons. In an effort to prolong his big league career, Brignac is now attempting to become a switch-hitter, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports.
I’m going to try it out this year. It was something that I just thought long and hard about and I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to try and see how it goes.’ I used to switch-hit when I was younger off and on, nothing consistent. I could always handle the bat right-handed. I play golf right-handed, so I do a lot of things that way that feel natural.
I just want to get to the point where I’m trying to stay in games, not get pinch-hit for, not starting games because a lefty is starting. … That could help me stay in the games longer. I’m trying to add a new element. I play multiple positions and now if I can switch hit and be consistent at it, then that can only help me.
As Brignac mentions, he’s also verstile. He’s a shortstop by trade, but has also logged plenty of innings at second base and third base, and has occasionally played corner outfield.
There aren’t any examples — at least that I can think of — where players began switch-hitting late in their careers and actually succeeding in the major leagues. As the saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But here’s hoping Brignac bucks the trend.
Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons fell off the map a bit last year due to a combination of the Angels’ mediocrity, Simmons’ lack of offense, and a month-plus of missed action due to a torn ligament in his left thumb.
Simmons is still as good and as smart as ever on defense. That was on full display Monday when the Angels hosted the Padres for an afternoon spring exhibition.
With a runner on first base and nobody out in the top of the second inning, Carlos Asuaje grounded a 2-0 J.C. Ramirez fastball to right field. The runner, Hunter Renfroe, advanced to third base. Meanwhile, Asuaje wandered a little too far off the first base bag. Simmons cut off the throw to first base, spun around and fired to Luis Valbuena at first base. Valbuena swiped the tag on Asuaje for the first out of the inning.