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The Cubs take on the Pirates in Pittsburgh at 12:35 PM. The White Sox host the Royals at 3:10. At about that time, six-foot-six southpaw Chris Sale will toe the rubber 60 feet and six inches from the plate, and start striking out Royals. Last year, he fanned exactly 192 in 192 innings.
And at some point during the game, Sox cleanup hitter Adam Dunn undoubtedly will whiff for the 400th time since he joined the team two years ago. (He's at 399 right now.) Maybe they should stop the game and give Dunn the ball—but money is tight right now in the big leagues.
And there are endless chances to commemorate Dunn whiffs. He'll likely reach 500 Sox Ks by mid-season, and 600 by September.
In the fifth inning of a game at the Cell on September 27, 2011, the Big Breeze broke Dave Nicholson's single-season Sox K record of 175. Then he rebroke the record in the seventh.
Last season, Dunn was healthier and played more often, which allowed him to break his 2011 Sox K record by 45. His 222 strikeouts last year was one shy of the all-time big league record, set by Arizona's Mark Reynolds in 2009.
So there's that record to look forward to.
Dunn also slammed 41 homers last year. He says he'll be be more aggressive at the plate this season. He's always taken a lot of pitches, which often quickly puts him in an 0-2 or a 1-2 hole. He had a Dunnish spring, fanning 17 times in just 59 at bats, but also hitting four homers. "I’m very happy with where I'm at," he told the Tribune's Mark Gonzales Friday. "I got two days left not to screw it up."
Whiffing has become the norm in baseball, as the New York Times pointed out yesterday. The K total in the bigs has climbed in each of the last seven seasons, with last year's 36,426 whiffs the all-time record.
A sidebar to the NYT story focused on Jeff Keppinger, also of the White Sox—the American Leaguer who's hardest to whiff. In ten seasons, Keppinger, a free agent the Sox signed over the winter to play third, has fanned 173 times—less than Dunn fans every season. Keppinger strikes out every 16 at bats, Dunn every three. "When I was a little kid, I would cry when I would strike out," Keppinger told the Times. "I thought everybody was looking at me like I did something horrible or I stunk really bad because I had to walk back to the dugout."
Dunn is apparently less self-conscious.
The Cubs enter the season with high hopes. Well, medium hopes. Maybe low-medium. On the bright side, it'll be hard for the North Siders to do worse than last year, when they lost 101 and finished 36 games out. That was better than the Astros, who lost 106, and, as punishment for finishing behind the Cubs, were expelled from the National League. The Astros opened the season yesterday against their new division rivals, the Texas Rangers—and guess what? They won, 8-2, and so today they have the best record in the majors. In baseball, anything is possible for a week or two.