GEORGE CASTLE: Pitchers shift on Dunn; can he adjust in kind?

2013-04-25T22:30:00Z 2013-04-26T00:44:03Z GEORGE CASTLE: Pitchers shift on Dunn; can he adjust in kind?George Castle On the White Sox
April 25, 2013 10:30 pm  • 

CHICAGO | It’s certainly not a comfortable subject after what he’s gone through as a White Sox.

Adam Dunn lets you know it’s bad timing to talk about what he’s not doing as a hitter, or what he once was bringing his strapping body to the plate as a 40-homer, .388 on base percentage menace to pitchers.

Give Dunn credit, though. Even in a slightly agitated mood, he’s honest.

“I’m getting pitched differently,” he said amid another bottoming-out that harks back to his .159 disaster of 2011. Dunn hit exactly .100 (2-for-46, including a career-worst 0-for-31 dry spell) going into Thursday night’s 5-2 White Sox victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.

Dunn got a respite from the massive hitting downturn with a two-run, sixth-inning homer (No. 4) pulled to right to back Chris Sale’s four-hit pitching over seven innings.

Dunn cracked his shot way over an exaggerated, Ted Williams-style shift opponents impose on him on the right side. The second baseman is stationed in short right field.

“They pitch according to the shift,” he said. “So obviously they’re not going to throw balls up and away, and let me hit it out to left center.”

Dunn was asked to respond to a Kenny Williams comment in late summer 2012 that now seems applicable. Then-Sox general manager Williams recalled the Dunn of mid-2000s Cincinnati Reds vintage.

Then, he hit with power to left-center, like all accomplished sluggers with good bat speed and plate coverage. Sammy Sosa arrived as a hitter in 1998 when he hit with power to all fields.

The “old” Dunn could rise into the .260s despite his prodigious strikeout totals. He’d draw as many as 128 walks with OBPs from the .380 range as high as .417. That’s the kind of player Williams first tried to land in a trade with the Nationals before signing him as a free agent.

A check around U.S. Cellular Field in recent weeks confirmed this analysis – that Dunn’s former way of hitting is gone, partially due to the way he’s being pitched inside.

An American League coach recalled how his team played the outfield over toward left center to defense a Dunn who could hit the other way. In the same breath, the coach said the increasing number of hard-throwing pitchers are able to confidently pitch inside.

A veteran AL pitcher also confirmed the increasingly inside work of the 93 mph crowd compared to a decade ago. “A lot of pitchers used to live on the outside,” he said.

Meanwhile, an AL scout who has watched Dunn noticed how in pressing he has increasingly swung at inside pitches that are not strikes. The strike zone itself has tightened, the scout added.

“There are sinkers down and away that Ted Williams himself couldn’t hit to left,” Dunn said. “If you continually get pitched a certain way, it’s not impossible – nothing’s impossible – it’s improbable to hit the ball that (other) way.

“If I knew (how to immediately counteract the new pitching pattern), I wouldn’t be hitting .100.”

Dunn thus faces his biggest-ever challenge – not letting the game swallow him up. He’ll need to make the adjustment of his career.

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