Pardon the pun of the title of the post, but what went on with Adam Dunn in 2011? Its obvious we are witnessing a regression but did other factors come into play? This is very difficult to say but there were plenty of factors I feel are greatly overlooked when writing him off for 2012. One reason that is often missed is last season was his first in a new city and a new league. Having never played in the American League, Dunn would have faced many pitchers he had never seen before. That being said, he was also playing on a new team which has been shown to somewhat reduce the production of a player in his first tour of duty in a new location. Lastly, Dunn's former manager in Chicago, Ozzie Guillen, isn't exactly known for being a "player's manager". The White Sox DH was slumping badly for most of the season and because of this likely ended up in Guillen's dog house. This lead to less at bats (deservedly so due to Dunn's results). Also, one more change: he was primarily the designated hitter for the first time in his career. I've read players that suggest this can be a difficult adjustment after being a regular position player. Still, at this point these points are pure speculation.
The hard facts, the statistics that is, suggest the Dunn 1) suffered his worst contact season of his career (65% contact rate) and 2) suffered the worst BABIP of his career (.240). I think its easy to see why he suffered through a .159 batting average in 2011. Finally, he suffered a career worst HR/FB of 9%! For a player who was regularly above 20%, this would be the leading factor in why his home run output was only 11.
Now, does all of this point to a rebound in 2012? Well, nothing is assured of course but some reasons to suggest hope: He's entering his 33rd year, well within his prime years. Dunn will be more familiar with his surroundings this season. The DH's walk rate was strong (15%). Ozzie Guillen is no longer the manager in Chicago. As with any players in the spring, there is plenty of reason for optimism and I would speculate on a small bounce back from this former OBP and HR monster.