"Me and Alex talked about it, and we’re putting it all on us in the second half basically," Dunn said.
Fortunately Dunn remembered that "second half" qualifier. On Saturday, they both wore the collar. On Sunday, Dunn proceeded to go 0-for-3 with two strikeouts, and Rios made two terrible throws to reduce goodwill from his single and a walk. But hey -- they had an out. As far as triumphant charges go, theirs looks like this (warning: bad language):
We're no strangers to terrible first halves, but I can't remember two players who have more thoroughly bummed me out. Usually there's a simple explanation, like an injury (Jermaine Dye in 2007, Paul Konerko in 2008), bad luck (Nick Swisher in 2008), or sophomore struggles (Gordon Beckham in 2010).
Dunn and Rios are exhibiting poor form, plain and simple, and I'm hard-pressed to figure out which one is in better shape for a rebound.
The case for Dunn
No. 1: He's been a metronome. In his previous six seasons, Dunn hit 40, 40, 40, 40, 38 and 38 homers. This year, he's on pace for 16. Even if he's due for a decline, the severity of it doesn't make sense.
No. 2: He can be hidden against lefties. If the White Sox ever call up Dayan Viciedo, that is. Dunn is 2-for-64 against lefties, which is an absurd void that can be easily corrected. That would help his overall line significantly.
No. 3: Seriously, this slump is absurd. It can't be overstated at this point.
The case against Dunn
No. 1: There's only more pressure from here. Dunn is hitting .123/.228/.268 with 68 strikeouts in 158 plate appearances at home. He might not think it affects him, but he certainly looks the part.
No. 2: He is a three-true-outcomes player in his 30s. David Schoenfeld mentioned the names Richie Sexson, Greg Luzinski and Pat Burrell, which isn't company Dunn would like to keep at his age.
No. 3: He can be benched. I'm not saying this is likely to happen, but if he's still hitting .160 come early August, Ozzie Guillen is going to have an incredibly difficult decision to make. At this point, Omar Vizquel is a better option (and the Sox are 17-13 when he starts!).
The case for Rios
No. 1: He doesn't have to hit that well. Unless the Sox make a bold move by calling up Alejandro De Aza, Rios is your center fielder by default. Only Brent Lillibridge can cover that ground, and he's not an option with his current contact issues. If he could even contribute a .750 OPS in the second half -- below-average by his standards -- that would still be a big relief.
No. 2: He has a .221 BABIP. Rios makes the kind of contact where a low BABIP is reasonable, but he's due for improvement nevertheless.
No. 2: He can still run. Even with his problems making solid contact, he still has more doubles than Gordon Beckham. He's not an all-or-nothing player, which gives some reason to believe middle ground can be attainable.
The case against Rios
No. 1: He was unimpressive for most of last season. A dynamite May lifted his 2010 line to respectability, but when you dial back his numbers to the last calendar year, he's hitting .233/.282/.346 with 29 GIDPs.
No. 2: He still has the toe problem. It seems that nobody has made mention of it since late April, but maybe because everybody has accepted that it's going to bother him the rest of his career.
No. 3: That stance. His hands are higher, but his lower body still says, "I'm playing a piano without a bench!" He's pulling off everything and refusing to go to opposite field, meaning that as long as pitchers stay on the outer half of the plate, he's going to hit it off the end of the bat. That's a recipe for soft singles at best.
I said in early May that I haven't been as down on a player as I am with Rios, but he's hit .234/.270/.342 since that point, and Dunn (.160/.289/.320) is right there with him. Common sense says one of these players is bound to bounce back, but that's about the only thing in their corners.