Thursday, November 11, 2010

An open letter to Dave Sheinin

Dear Mr. Sheinin,

Today I was reading Nationals Journal in hopes of seeing news that Ryan Zimmerman had been awarded his second straight Gold Glove. To my surprise, it was announced that Scott Rolen won his eighth Gold Glove instead. In your breakdown of Rolen being awarded the Gold Glove, you said that Adam Dunn was partially to blame for Zimmerman not repeating;

"Although Zimmerman's fielding percentage was down 12 points this year (from .963 to .951), that drop is at least partly explained by the presence this season of Adan Dunn, a below-average defender, as the everyday first baseman -- which, presumably, meant fewer of Zimmerman's errant throws were saved."

I question if you took the time to actually look into whether Dunn was 'partially' to blame for Zimmerman's error woes, or, if you saw an easy target such as Adam Dunn and decided it would fit into your article better?

Since I did not want to be accused of not doing my homework, I decided to go back through the game logs of the 2010 season and check out just how many errors by Zimmerman that Adam Dunn was 'partially' responsible for. To aid in my research, I loaded up and re-watched every play that Zimmerman was credited with an error.

Here are my findings...

In 2010, Zimmerman committed 17 errors (six fielding, 11 throwing), of those 11, two were balls thrown away at 2B, immediately removing Dunn from the equation. Of the nine remaining errors, it is by my count that Dunn was 'partially' responsible for three of Zimmerman's throwing errors. So, in total, Adam Dunn was 'partially' responsible for 17.7% of Ryan Zimmerman's error total in 2010.

Below is a list of all 11 of Ryan Zimmerman's throwing errors. If you would like to re-check my work, I have listed the date, inning and batter of each error with a brief description to make your research project easier. The plays I believe Dunn is partially/fully responsible for Zimmerman's error are listed in bold.

1 - May 6 (8th inning - Melky Cabrera batting - Sharp ground ball to third, Zimmerman spins and throws into outfield on force attempt at 2B)

2 - May 6 (9th inning - Troy Glaus batting - Hard ground ball, jump throw to 2B that Alberto Gonzales can't handle.

3 - May 19 (1st inning - Jason Bay batting - Tough hop, solid throw that pulled Dunn off the base even though he was in full stretch)

4 - June 5 (1st inning - Orlando Cabrera batting - Easy chopper. Throw near RF that pulls Dunn well off bag. Nats PBP man Bob Carpenter remarks "Zimmerman's throw is 10 feet off-line"

5 - June 18 (11th inning - Alexi Rios batting - Hard ground ball down line. Throw high... hits Dunn well over his head. Bad throw, and one that shorter 1B can't even reach... but Dunn could have caught it.

6 - July 18 (8th inning - Dan Uggla batting - Thrown far off course near nats bullpen in RF.

7 - July 20 (5th inning - Corky Miller batting - Diving stop by Zimmerman. Skips throw to 1st. Dunn should have caught.

8 - August 11 (3rd inning - Gaby Sanchez batting - Rainbow throw... off top of Dunn's glove. Mostly catchable. Dunn's fault.

9 - August 25 (1st inning - Marlon Byrd batting - Rainbow throw. Dunn has to jump to catch, saves ball from going into stands. "Zimmerman launches a throw" according to Bob Carpenter.

10 - September 17 (4th inning - Roy Oswalt batting - Thrown well off the line into right field.

11 - September 19 (1st inning - Chase Utley batting - Weak grounder. throw hits Utley in the back going down the 1st base line.

As you can see, I put a decent amount of time and effort into my research. I believe that Washington Nationals fans deserve as much. I also believe that professional writers such as yourself and William 'Bill' Ladson should put forth as much effort when writing your articles.

Why you chose Adam Dunn as your target for Ryan Zimmerman's gold glove loss, I cannot say. Maybe it is because you, Ladson, and countless others that write about baseball for a living see Adam Dunn for what you want him to be. Bumbling, slow and incompetent. Maybe it had nothing to do with Dunn's reputation; maybe you needed a convenient fall guy for Zimmerman's drop in fielding percentage. Whatever the case, Dunn as the fall man for Zimmerman's award snub was unwarranted and a below the belt parting shot.

It has been my experience as a fan, and as a follower of many great sports journalist of the past, that what is written in newspapers or in online editorials is often taken as gospel by the masses; with that in mind, I simply ask that the next time you look to lay blame on a player for someone elses struggles, you do the proper amount of research ahead of time.

Ryan Zimmerman unfairly lost to Scott Rolen for the 2010 NL Gold Glove at Third Base. I think we can all agree to that. What I cannot agree with, nor will I ever agree with is the bastardization of facts and statistics to fit ones agenda. I'd hate to see Nationals Journal fall into that trap.

By the way, in 2009, Ryan Zimmerman had 13 throwing errors with Dunn playing less than half a year at First Base. As you no doubt have already noticed, that is two more throwing errors than he had in 2010.

Errors didn't keep Zimmerman from winning the 2010 Gold Glove, the reputation of Scott Rolen did. I think it's high time for you, Ladson, and other writers to re-examine the reputation of Adam Dunn as a terrible defender. Reputations are often deserved, but, in the cases of Rolen and Dunn, there's more than meets the eye.


David Lint


  1. Adam Dunn is not a terrible defender. He is merely a strikeout machine not worthy of the praise of blind Nats bloggers

  2. Hey Linty, on how many of those throws did Ryan throw off balance and not set his feet? That's what I see as more of the cause of his throwing errors - that and he slings the ball sidearmed much of the time.

  3. A couple of points to add to your well-reasoned article (many thanks for this), as there is obviously an anti-Dunn agenda.

    First, I recall on many occasions Dunn stretching for and catching an errantly thrown ball. Carpenter/ Dibbs made the comment, more than once, that Nick Johnson didn't have the wing span to reach that ball and make the putout.

    Accounting for those three Dunn-assisted errors, Ryan's fielding percentage (85 putouts, 242 assist, and 17 errors) would be .959. But you cannot compare that to .963, because it does not account for misses by Johnson and Dunn in lasts years .963 fielding percentage (which presumably lowered that figure, as well). Certainly it would be as much as the three from this year, yes?

  4. James -

    I won't disagree that sometimes I/others are overprotective of Adam Dunn. He's a player I enjoy watching and I do defend him more than I need to from time to time. As for my letter, it has nothing to do with offense, I simply wanted to state my opinion that Dunn was not the root cause of Zimmerman's throwing errors.

  5. Mark -

    Quite a few of Zimmerman's throws were of the off balance variety.

    The thing with Ryan is, when he makes an error, its usually way off course... and no player, regardless of skill could save it from being an error.

    I believe if I went back and watched every error... only one or two of his errors came on plays when he had the regular amount of time to make the play.

  6. Frithstool -

    That's a very good point. Obviously, it would take a massive amount of time to watch every play Zimmerman had, and whether or not Adam Dunn saved errors from being made.

    According to Fangraphs, Dunn made 29 'scoops' this year, or, 29 scoops of throws that bounced before they reached him. How many of those were from Zimmerman? I don't have a clue. You also have to take into account how many throws Dunn saved because he is taller and can reach balls other 1B can't.

    As I said, that is something that would take a massive amount of time and effort, but, eventually I hope there will be some sort of advanced metric that measures the contribution a 1B makes in preventing errors... until then, your guess is as good as mine.

  7. Seems to me when Zim won the GG last year, a few commentators were speculating that Dunn actually lent an assist because of his range.

    We can't have it both ways, guys. Good piece of writing, David.