Sometimes it seems like Adam Dunn hits the vast majority of his homers in garbage time, when the game is no longer in doubt. Now some of that is a function of the Nats' crappy pitching producing a whole lot more garbage-time situations than the average team.
When he came up in yesterday's Nats win over the Pirates with two on and the team down 3-1, it seemed like it was going to be another one of those data points. Dunn had been struggling mightily, fishing after so many crappy pitches he could've won the big bass tournament that was going on in Pittsburgh.
But then, BAM! He hit a high, towering drive deep down the line in left. It was far enough; the only question was fair or foul. Thankfully for him and the Nats, it curled around the good side of the foulpole, giving the Nats a 4-3 lead.
Tyler Clippard pitched three hitless innings in relief of the terrible Garrett Mock, and that was enough. Ryan Zimmerman added a two-run homer in a game they'd go on to win 8-4.
Is that perception of Adam Dunn as someone who does his best work outside the clutch fair? Yes, and no.
For the season, Dunn hits best when the score is more than four runs either way: .390/ .438/ .805. That's positively Pujolsian!
While that could be, in some ways, an indictment, it's probably also somewhat to be expected. In low pressure situations, the pitcher is more likely to give in to him -- and we've all seen what he can do when he gets a BP fastball. It's not necessarily that he's better when it doesn't matter; it could just be the pitchers are worse.
If the game is within one run, he's still pretty darn good: .279/ .413/ .537.
Another way of looking at it is through "leverage index." That's basically a stat that looks at the context of each individual AB to see its potential impact on the game. In situations where the leverage is high, Dunn hits like an All Star: .265/ .390/ .561.
So if there's a perception that Dunn does his best work when the team's down big, it's only because the team's down big so often. When the game is on the line, he comes through regularly, in line with his overall rate of production.
He might not be a clutch superstar, but he's no slouch -- just ask yesterday's losing pitcher.
Chris Needham used to write Capitol Punishment. Now he twitters about the team.