Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Adam Dunn's career to this point is comparable to borderline Hall of Famers.
Carl Crawford, through age 28, has put up incredibly similar offensive numbers to none other than Roberto Clemente. It's not a perfect comparison tool, because it only takes into account offense, and obviously Clemente was perhaps the greatest defensive right fielder of all-time. But it's not a bad method for putting a current player's performance in context.
And you can do this with any player in baseball history thanks to baseball-reference.com's "Similarity Score," which uses a formula developed by Bill James to make some pretty accurate comparisons.
Now, the fun part: To whom do members of the Nationals most favorably compare?
Let's start with the man drawing the most attention this offseason, Adam Dunn, who at age 30 has hit 354 homers with a .250 batting average, .381 on-base percentage, .521 slugging percentage and .902 OPS.
So who compares most favorably to Dunn at age 30? Jose Canseco, Rocky Colavito, Harmon Killebrew, Sammy Sosa, Reggie Jackson, Darryl Strawberry, Ralph Kiner, Jim Thome, Barry Bonds and Boog Powell. Not a bad list; it includes three current Hall of Famers and four others who will get serious consideration for enshrinement (though steroid allegations may keep them out).
Point is, Dunn compares very favorably to some of the best power hitters of the last half century. Pretty good company, I'd say.
What about other members of the Nationals?
Ryan Zimmerman, through age 25, has 116 homers, a .288 average, a .355 on-base percentage, a .484 slugging percentage and a .839 OPS. The most comparable players at that age are Eric Chavez, Harland Clift, Ken Keltner, Ron Santo, Gary Sheffield, David Wright, Scott Rolen, Greg Luzinski, Del Ennis and Hank Blalock. Again, this only takes into account offense, so Zim's glove doesn't figure into the equation. If he continues to produce the next few years as he has the last two, I think the names on this list will look better.
Ivan Rodriguez's comparables through age 38: Ted Simmons, Gary Carter, Yogi Berra, Cal Ripken, Craig Biggio, Jeff Kent, George Brett, Garret Anderson, Joe Cronin and Al Oliver. Five Hall of Famers and a couple more who may get to Cooperstown soon. Impressive.
Josh Willingham's comparables through age 31: Ryan Ludwick, Glenallen Hill, Jim Lemon, Kevin Mench(?!), Chet Laabs, Morgan Ensberg, Jerry Lynch, Wes Covington, Brian Daubach and Jayson Werth. Mostly solid players there.
Nyjer Morgan's comparables through age 29: Jack Dalton, Ducky Holmes, Harry Walker, Ward Miller, Bert Daniels, Mike McCormick, Moose McCormick, Bob Seeds, Al Spangler and Tike Redman. Hmm...
Livan Hernandez's comparables through age 35: Mike Moore, Camilo Pascual, Bobo Newsom, Howard Ehmke, Kevin Gross, Willis Hudlin, Kevin Millwood, Jeff Suppan, Kevin Appier and Jim Slaten. Some old-school names there. Definitely appropriate for Livo.
Jason Marquis' comparables through age 31: Todd Stottlemyre, Gil Meche, Vicente Padilla, Joel Piniero, Pedro Astacio, Jeff Suppan, Esteban Loaiza, Matt Clement, Jamie Navarro and Steve Avery. Interesting that his comparables are more recent pitchers than Livan's comparables.
John Lannan's comparables through age 25: Lloyd Brown, Jamie Moyer, Bobby Shantz, Joe Mays, Tony Armas Jr., Ernie Wingard, Zach Duke, Francisco Barrios, Matt Garza and Ken Kill. Odd mix of names there, though it's tougher to do these comparisons with younger players who have less experience.
In fact, I'm going to stop there, because most of the other prominent Nationals players haven't been around long enough for these comparisons to carry much weight.
I do think this is a valuable exercise, though, to try to put current players in a historical context.