3/24/2013 5:49 P.M. ET
Wins remain only priority for slugger Dunn
White Sox DH the active leader in games played without reaching postseason
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Mention the possibility of reaching 500 or even 600 home runs to White Sox slugger Adam Dunn, and he doesn't seem overwhelmed by the prospect.
Even with 406 career homers, 1,018 RBIs, 1,170 walks and a .370 on-base percentage over 12 seasons, Dunn simply is not a numbers guy.
That is, with the exception of one statistic.
"Wins are wins. That's the stat that should matter to everyone," Dunn said. "You hit .400 with 80 home runs and drive in 200 and you are 62-100, then that's all for nothing. So .. only one stat for me.
"There's a stat for everything. You can find out how you hit with 2 o'clock games. I'm serious. It's ridiculous. I don't care what stats you have, I have, they have. I don't care as long as you win. That's the name of the game."
If Dunn ever becomes a general manager when he retires, it doesn't sound as if he'll be in the group that emphasizes Sabermetrics. It was during the 2012 season, a campaign in which Dunn bounced back to win a pair of Comeback Player of the Year Awards as voted on by his peers, when this statistical talk took shape in regard to his batting average.
Yes, the powerful designated hitter produced 41 homers and 96 RBIs, an offensive showing more commensurate with his yearly average of 38 and 96. But he still finished with a .204 average that checked in well below his career mark of .240.
Batting average ranked low on the list of priorities for a middle-of-the-order hitter who is focused on bringing in runs any way possible. Dunn loses double-digit hits in a given season to the pronounced defensive shift played against him, with three infielders between first and second and one of them usually stationed in short right field.
White Sox hitting coach Jeff Manto also believes that Dunn could hit .260 or .270 if that's the goal he set. But when asked about that 2012 batting average assessment with 2013 Spring Training coming to a close, Dunn's thought process hadn't changed.
"Again, I really don't care as long as I'm driving in runs and we score runs. It doesn't matter how we do it, as long as it gets done," Dunn said. "I could definitely get a lot more singles, but you know it's what the team kind of needs is people to drive in runs.
"That's the name of the game, score runs. I don't care if it's a ground ball to second base that gets the job done as long as it gets him in."
Dunn's runs-first approach at the plate is something Robin Ventura understands. Yet, the White Sox manager would like to see his cleanup hitter have a higher average.
"I think he has the ability to do it, too," Ventura said. "Again, it's working and getting in the cage and getting him feeling right. It's one thing just to have him go out there and tell him you don't care about it, but a higher average helps everybody so I'm looking for more out of that."
As to how Dunn could raise that average into the .280 range, if that was his goal, he smiled and pointed to bunting a couple of times per game as his first change.
"But I don't know how much that's helping the team," Dunn said.
"I've felt great since Day 1 of spring," added Dunn of his current Spring Training work. "It seems like every day I feel the same, which is good. Normally about this time, I'm still fighting to find the swing and kind of panicking because Opening Day is right around the corner. For the most part, all spring, I've been feeling good."
Strikeouts come with Dunn's power numbers, as in the Major League's highest total since 2004 at 1,661 and 222 during the 2012 season. Dunn also possesses an intangible that can't be taught at the plate or worked on in the field with his glove.
In a game based on failure, where getting 30 hits in 100 at-bats is considered above average, Dunn simply enjoys the profession in which he earns a living. It's a trait of good humor that becomes infectious for the rest of his teammates.
"He keeps the clubhouse loose," said White Sox Opening Day starter Chris Sale. "He likes to laugh and tell jokes and stuff like that. It's always nice to have someone like that to kind of keep the fun about it. He brings the best out of everyone. Everyone is more social. We are just having fun. That's the thing that got us to where we were last year."
Of course, that fun-loving attitude shouldn't be confused with a lack of caring on Dunn's part. As Sale pointed out, you don't accomplish what Dunn has done without working hard.
It's that lack of focus on statistics helping Dunn remain calm through success and not fall too far down during those leaner times. It's all about the victories, or in the case of the active Major League leader without seeing the postseason (via Dunn's 1,721 games), it's about finishing the job the White Sox started in 2012.
"We were there for the most part all the way to the end," Dunn said. "That's what you do everything for, to play meaningful games in September and give yourself a chance to get in the playoffs and win a ring."