A Dunn, a Deer, a real bad Deer….

Rob Deer is often referenced by baseball fans when try to come up with a woeful average guy who still has some value due to impressive power. There’s good reason for this, considering his historic distinction of the record for lowest batting average for a batting title qualifier since 1920 (the live-ball era) with a .179 mark in 1991 with the Tigers.

Deer did hit 25 homers that season, but just 14 doubles and, thanks to the horrific average, just a .386 slugging percentage to go with a league-high 175 strikeouts. (Baseball Reference did a nice little piece with a chart that you can check out here.) But with the pace being set now, Deer might finally be off the hook as future fans might invoke the 2011 season of Chicago White Sox DH Adam Dunn.

Adam Dunn went 1-for-4 Sunday to raise his season average to .160.

As the chart shows, through Saturday’s game (yet another 0-for-4, this one with three strikeouts) Dunn was on pace to obliterate Deer’s standard for futility, hitting .159 in over 300 at-bats with a league-leading 118 strikeouts which puts him on pace for over 200 for the year. Perhaps even more telling: After seven straight seasons of at least 38 homers, Dunn is set to finish short of 20 at this rate.

The signs might have been there last year, when Dunn belted 38 homers and drove in 103 runs, actually finishing 21st in MVP voting and adding a career-high 36 doubles. He batted .260, actually one of the higher averages for a guy who’s a career .250 hitter coming into the year and hit a career-best .267 in 2009.

But he also set a new personal mark for strikeouts with 199 last year while walking just 77 times, his lowest total since 74 in his second full year in the bigs with Cincinnati in 2003, when he batted a career-worst .215. That was also the last year he didn’t reach 30 homers, but he “only” struck out 126 times. His batting average on balls in play was just .237 — the lowest mark until this season’s .235.

The difference this season is obviously the strikeouts, and the combination has produced these historically bad numbers. And the White Sox don’t exactly have a ton of other options either, meaning that Dunn will likely continue to get the at-bats necessary to stay on the list and surpass Deer’s abysmal campaign.

On that Baseball Reference chart (which goes back to 1893), practically every other player is from the dead-ball era with one notable exception — new Atlanta Braves second baseman Dan Uggla, who entered Sunday batting .186.

Dan Uggla is still hitting below .190 for the season, but has batted over .300 in the last two weeks and could finish with a fifth straight 30-homer season

Uggla’s season is different for a few reasons, however. First, the power is on par or better than Deer’s was back in ’91, with 15 dingers through 93 games. Also, his walk-to-strikeout ratio (31-84) isn’t as atrocious or even out of line with his career numbers.

The biggest thing for Uggla is that he’s actually showing signs of pulling out of his season-long funk. He’s batting .316 over the last two weeks with four doubles, three homers and six RBIs, seven walks and just nine strikeouts. That gives him an on-base percentage of .436 in that time, and a slugging mark of .719.

By contrast, Dunn has been even worse recently. Over the last 28 days, Dunn is hitting .088 with 35 strikeouts in 68 at-bats and just one double and two homers. His average on balls in play in that span? Just .129.

The White Sox signed Dunn to a four-year, $56 million contract in the offseason to acquire a reliable power source to anchor their lineup who would still be just 34 at contract’s end. Instead, they might have paid all that money for the answer to a trivia question.


A story straight out of Hollywood

Scene: Interior of Hollywood producer’s office. A loud beep comes from his desk.

Hollywood producer: Yes?

Secretary: The next struggling young screenwriter is here to see you, sir.

HP: Send him in.

The door opens, and a young man in slightly wrinkled suit clothes enters. His eyes are a little red, and he has noticeable bags under his eyes.

Struggling young writer: Hello, sir. Thank you for seeing me.

HP: Always happy to help a struggling young writer such as yourself. We’re always looking for the next blockbuster idea.

SYW: I think I might have a couple, sir. They’re sports movies.

HP: Hmmm. Not the first thing I want to hear, but I’ll give you a chance. Let’s hear the first one.

SYW: (a little nervously) All right. Here we go. Picture the most storied franchise in baseball, with one of the top players in the franchise’s long history replete with Hall of Famers….

HP: Wait, the hero plays for the superstar squad? That doesn’t make sense. Shouldn’t the story be about the underdogs, overcoming adversity and overwhelming odds to knock off the No. 1 team?

SYW: But that’s what makes this story different. The team might not be liked by everybody, but the hero is almost universally respected. And he’s closing in on a milestone of 3,000 hits, which no one else in the history of the franchise has ever reached —

HP: What? No one in the history of the franchise has ever gotten 3,000 hits? Is this a fantasy story? Sci-fi?

SYW: No, seriously. But the player is on the downside of his career. His skills are starting to diminish, he’s not hitting the way he always has. The manager is still hitting him leadoff out of respect, but people are saying he should be dropped in the lineup or replaced. Then he gets hurt just a few hits shy and has to go on the DL, building the suspense further.

HP: (flipping through the story SYW has brought) Suspense? Everyone knows he’s gonna get it. The injury’s minor, and it certainly doesn’t threaten his career. All it does is drag it out longer and make it more excruciating for everyone.

SYW: Let me finish. He comes off the DL, and his first few hits are mostly little nubbers, nothing to prove he’s still got much left in the tank. Then just two hits shy of 3,000, he leads off an afternoon game with a single and then, in his second at-bat, golfs a 3-2 pitch into the stands for a home run and his 3,000th hit. He finishes the game 5-for-5, the last hit being a game-winning single in the bottom of the eighth.

HP: (staring at SYW) … Uh-huh. … Look, kid, nobody’s gonna buy this crap. And sports movies often don’t do well across the board, especially internationally. So let’s just —

SYW: Wait! My second story is about soccer, the most popular sport in the world!

HP: Well, that would almost guarantee a bomb stateside, but could really help the worldwide numbers where we make most of our money anyway. OK, kid. One more chance. Let’s hear it.

SYW: OK. It’s the Women’s World Cup —

HP: WHAT?!? Stop right there. Women? C’mon, kid, there’s only one “Bend It Like Beckham.” And we’ve already been pitched the story about the 1999 U.S. women’s team winning the cup on home soil with the penalty kicks and the chick ripping her shirt off after scoring the winning goal. Can you beat that?

SYW: Maybe. It’s not the final, though. It’s just the quarterfinal.

HP: Now that’s just a blatant ripoff of the 1980 U.S. men’s hockey team.

SYW: No, this isn’t a rag-tag group of kids who aren’t expected to win. This team might be the best in the tournament.

HP: Another favorite??

SYW: Hear me out. The women lose their last pool play match in ugly fashion, forcing them to play their arch-rival in the quarterfinal just to reach the final four. A team they lost to in the last Cup, 4-0.

HP: Sounds like hockey again….

SYW: Anyway, the team grabs an early lead, but the officiating seems to be going against them and they can’t build on their 1-0 lead. Then the rivals are awarded a penalty kick for a takedown in the box, with the offender being sent off with a red card. Now it’s 10-on-11 the rest of the way.

The goalkeeper makes an amazing save on the penalty kick, but the refs make a controversial call to give the rivals another chance at the penalty kick which they make. Now it’s tied with our heroes down a player. They make it to overtime, but give up a goal at the beginning of overtime, and now it’s even harder for the heroes to come back.

HP: Go on, go on….

SYW: Somehow the heroes keep coming, even as everything seems to be going against them. The rivals are stalling, faking injuries, doing everything they can to run out the clock and turn the audience against them. But that only adds extra stoppage time at the end of the second overtime, and the heroes use those couple of extra minutes to score a miracle goal and force penalty kicks, which they win with another amazing save by their keeper.

HP: … Look, kid, I like you. But the only reason people bought a story like “Miracle” is because they’ve seen video of that game from 1980 ever since.

The soccer team is down a player, and they win? … Nah, something like that could never happen. Come back when you’ve got stories that are a little more believable.