Saturday, June 28, 2008

Inferring Personality Traits from Physical Attributes?

Rob Neyer wrote an interesting couple of paragraphs about Adam Dunn in light of the criticism Dunn received from Toronto GM J.P. Ricciardi.

Neyer hints that the criticism of Dunn may be driven more by his on-the-field attributes than any actual character/personality flaws.


"All Dunn

Adam Dunn is leading the major leagues with 63 walks. At this pace he'll finish the season with 133. Dunn's always drawn plenty of walks, but he hasn't drawn more than 114 since 2002 (when he finished with 128). Because of all the walks this season, though, his on-base percentage is .385, an outstanding figure that's right in line with the rest of his career. So why does J.P. Ricciardi -- and he's probably not alone in his opinion -- think Dunn doesn't want to play baseball?

There was an outfielder 60 years ago named Roy Cullenbine. During his decade in the majors, Cullenbine switched teams six times. In 1947, Cullenbine hit an unimpressive .224. He wasn't impressive in the outfield, either. On the other hand, Cullenbine hit 24 home runs, and his 137 walks ranked second in the majors, behind only Ted Williams. Cullenbine, whose manager once said he was "lazy," never played again.

Adam Dunn is in no danger of something like that. But there will always be baseball people who can't appreciate a player like him."


Could the criticism of Dunn as uncaring and lazy be driven by nothing more than his deliberate and patient approach at the plate? Are people subconsciously attempting to draw inferences about a player's personality from his physical skills?

It's one thing to try to draw inferences from the way in which a player comports himself on the field, but it's a slightly different animal to try to infer personality traits based on physical attributes. Dunn isn't ever going to be a quick, hustle guy. He's too big for that to ever be the case, but just because he is bigger and slower afoot than some doesn't mean that he's lazy and uncaring.

If Dunn was faster and more agile on his feet, would people consider him to be less lazy and uncaring? Would that be enough to make him a more popular figure throughout baseball? It's certainly another interesting discussion created by the lightening rod for discussion, Adam Dunn.

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