Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Adam Dunn's bat has directly contributed to 16 Nationals wins this season.
If the ultimate issue with Dunn is whether his positive offensive performance outweighs his negative defensive performance, then doesn't the question boil down to this: How many games has he won with his bat this year, and how many games has he lost with his glove?
There's no easy way to calculate the defensive question, not without going back and analyzing every defensive play Dunn was involved in over the the last 158 games. I did, however, come up with one method of evaluating his offensive contribution: How many times his offensive production has been the difference in the Nationals winning a game.
How do you figure that out? Well, I decided to look up how many times this season Dunn's RBI total was greater than or equal to the Nats' margin of victory.
The answer: 16.
Is that a lot? Is that a little? Is that average? I had no idea. So I started running the same test with some other Nationals regulars. Ryan Zimmerman has done it 10 times. Ian Desmond has done it six times. Josh Willingham did it 10 times before his season ended in mid-August.
OK, so Dunn clearly leads the Nats in this department. What about around the league? I looked at all the top NL MVP candidates. Carlos Gonzalez has done it 17 times. Joey Votto has done it 16 times. Troy Tulowitzki has done it 12 times. Adrian Gonzalez has done it 10 times. Albert Pujols has done it nine times. (Just for fun, Carlos Pena has done it nine times.)
So Dunn ranks among the best players in the league in this department. Does that prove he's one of the most valuable offensive players in baseball? No. This is hardly scientific research here, and I fully admit it doesn't take into account all sorts of other factors. You can help your team win a game without driving in a run. You can also fail to deliver in far more games your team winds up losing by one or two runs.
But I think everyone pretty much agrees that Dunn has had plenty of offensive value to the Nationals. The question is whether that's superseded by his negative defensive value.
Again, I don't have a quick and easy method for determining that. But let me ask you this: If we're saying Dunn's bat has directly contributed to 16 wins this season, has his glove directly contributed to 16 losses? Off the top of my head, I can't think of more than three or four games tops that I felt like Dunn cost the Nats because of defense.
Is this the be-all, end-all argument for re-signing Dunn? No. But perhaps it helps give some quantitative measure of his value to the Nationals, in terms non-sabermetricians can understand.