June 18, 2002
The Daily Prospectus
I thought I might be able to put a cap on the DiSar Awards for this year, but I can't. Not yet. Not with one of the all-time great hackers finding his way into the lineup-despite a 390 OPS-and keeping the heat on the leaders in the clubhouse.
Like Tiger Woods on a Sunday, Shawon Dunston is making a run.
Through June 16, Dunston had racked up 56 at-bats without seeing ball four. Dunston, never a patient hitter, has spent the latter part of his career taking hacking to a new level. He hasn't drawn ten walks in a season since 1996, and has a grand total of 24 free passes in just under 1,400 at-bats in the five-and-a-half years since then. For all the grief expended on Shea Hillenbrand, Dunston makes him look like Lance Blankenship.
Dunston has done this before. In 2000, Dunston came from way behind to catch Placido Polanco in July after 92 walkless at-bats. The example he set was followed last year, when we all thrilled to the sight of Marquis Grissom swinging his way from the Dodgers' bench to the NL's DiSar Award with 124 walk-free at-bats.
Dunston's biggest problem is going to be getting enough playing time to catch the current leaders (the Braves' Wes Helms and the Mets' Timo Perez, 63 at-bats). Dusty Baker, bless his loyal heart, continues to play Dunston despite the veteran's .161/.158/.232 line, but even Baker has to have his limits. You know Brian Sabean is going to be adding players to help push the Giants to a division crown, and if a roster crunch happens, it's going to be hard to carry a fifth outfielder who hits like a fifth starter.
There's still a race in the AL, too, where the White Sox' Aaron Rowand is up to 66 at-bats without a free pass. He's just five behind the current AL leader, Angels' infielder Jose Nieves, who finally drew a walk on June 6 after 71 at-bats. The Rangers' Todd Greene is in the mix as well, with 50 at-bats and no walks.
But all eyes are on the Shawon-O-Meter, which is up to 56 and counting. Will we have our first repeat winner, or will the young talent in the NL East give us the first shared title? I don't know, but if there's one thing the DiSars have taught us, it's that you can never count out a veteran.
A big thanks to Keith Woolner for tracking this information.
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Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. You can contact him by clicking here.