So I'm happy to see that Ventura may be thinking about dropping Dunn in the order. (He's had him hitting fourth and fifth in the early going in Arizona.) The fans at South Side Sox offer strong reasons for Dunn batting fifth, which have to do with the base stealing of those ahead of him in the order. They boil down to this: it's usually not smart for someone to try to steal while Dunn's at the plate. He doesn't hit into many double plays (because he whiffs so often), reducing the benefit of stealing. And when he does make contact, the ball often flies over the fence, in which case it matters little if the runner was on first, second, or third.
Baseball statisticians have studied the matter and concluded that it makes less sense to steal when Dunn's batting than it does with almost anyone else in the big leagues at the plate. You'd better be Rickey Henderson if you're going to take off when Dunn's up. (Henderson in his prime, that is; he's 54 now, and may have lost a step.)
If Dunn bats third, he'll often have leadoff hitter Alejandro De Aza on base. De Aza is a genuine base-stealer (26 thefts last year), so you'd rather avoid this scenario. Better to have Dunn hitting behind Paul Konerko, who, in 16 major league seasons, has swiped nine bases.
And Dunn himself would likely benefit from batting lower in the order, as Daryl Van Schouwen pointed out yesterday in the Sun-Times: "Dunn has always been distracted by movement on the bases when he hits, so batting fifth behind Paul Konerko might suit him better."
Dunn told Van Schouwen: “My whole life, I’m so locked into the pitcher that whenever I see somebody move, especially with like two strikes, my eyes go straight to the runner."
Whoa, that's really locked in. If anyone's locked in, it's the White Sox, for two more seasons at $15 million each.
"Obviously on a 3-2 count they’re probably going to be running so you have it in the back of your mind," the Big Breeze told Van Schouwen. "There were a couple of times with two strikes I’d either freeze up or just wail at one I normally wouldn’t.’’
I believe I recall him freezing up or wailing at strike three a few times last season even when no one was running.
But if Dunn's right and distraction hampers him, the Sox and their fans can help him concentrate during home games. There should be no organ playing or anything else coming through the speakers when he's at the plate, and fans and vendors should observe a moment of stillness. This might nudge Dunn's average up to .210—and if not, fans will at least experience the sacred sound of one bat missing.
In Cubs news, the north-siders are considering signing Rickey Henderson to lead off this year.