As of this writing two active major leaguers are currently tied for 35th all-time on the MLB home run hitters list with 357. The two sluggers are David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox and Adam Dunn of the Chicago White Sox. This year Adam Dunn has hit 17 while David Ortiz has hit 26. So, I began to wonder, which of these two sluggers; the “Big Donkey” or “Big Papi” has had the better offensive career?
The first question that we will need to answer for each is how long each have been in the big leagues? Ortiz has been in the league for 18 years and has spent all 18 in the American League. Minnesota for his first 6 seasons and Boston for his last 12 seasons. While in comparison Dunn has been in the show for 4 fewer years spending his first 8 in Cincinnati. In 2008 he was traded to Arizona and played the final 44 games of that year in Arizona. His next two years were spent in Washington, then he signed a 4 year contract to play for the White Sox in 2011.
Looking at some of their power numbers, Dunn has averaged 38 home runs per year for his career while Ortiz has averaged 36. While Dunn has averaged 192 strike outs per year for his career, Ortiz has averaged only 120 per year. But, if we are going to look at strike outs we also need to look at the career yearly average in walks. Dunn has that advantage at 108 to 89. Lets also look at each players slash line of batting average/on base percentage/ and slugging percentage. Dunn’s slash line is .238/.366/.492 while Ortiz has a career slash line of .285/.380/ .546. Both of these hitters are known for their home run power so I also wanted to look at how many at bats they had for every home run they hit for their careers. Dunn comes in at 14.8 which puts him at #2 as far as active players, while Ortiz comes in at 16.4 which is 7th best as far as active players.
I would be remiss if I did not mention the spike in Ortiz’s numbers from 2004-2006 as compared to his career numbers. From 2003 to 2004 his numbers take a drastic uptick with his home runs jumping from 31 to 41 and his RBI’s jumping from 101 to 139. But they did not stop climbing there, in 2005 those numbers became 47 and 148 and in 2006 his home runs continued to climb to a career pentacle of 54. In the first 6 years of his career he hit a total of 58 home runs in 1477 at bats yet in 2006 in 919 less at bats he hit 54. Plus, with the exception of the three straight years in question from 04-06 Ortiz has only hit more than 30 home runs 3 times in the other 15 years of his career. Like it or not, this raises the proverbial red flag.
While Ortiz has a part of his career that raises a red flag Dunn has an 8 year career that raises a flag of consistency. From 2004 -2010 Adam Dunn hit between 38 and 46 home runs then after a down year in 2011 he again hit 41 in 2012. His RBI totals are very similar over those same 9 years as well only fluctuating from 92 to 106 over those 9 years.
To compare some additional offensive statistics; Adam Dunn has more walks, more stolen bases, and more sacrifice flies than Ortiz. Dunn has also grounded into less double plays than has Ortiz. While they have both driven in 100 or more RBI’s the same amount of seasons with 7. And remember, Dunn has accomplished all of this with 4 fewer years in the league.
There are so many different numbers you can look at and compare and contrast in order to determine which of these two players has had the better career. But, for my money, I am going to go with Adam Dunn as having the better career so far. So, because he has been more consistent, raises no red flags, and because his numbers are virtually even with Big Papi yet have come in four years less, I am going to give the edge to the “Big Donkey” over “Big Papi.”