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updated: 5/12/2012 7:12 PM

For Cubs and Sox, heart of the order producing

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  • The White Sox' Adam Dunn hits a 2-rrun home run against the Boston Red Sox earlier this season. Dunn is playing much closer to his statistical averages this season than he did last year.

    The White Sox' Adam Dunn hits a 2-rrun home run against the Boston Red Sox earlier this season. Dunn is playing much closer to his statistical averages this season than he did last year.
    associated press


Hey look, it's Adam Dunn.

He's here, finally -- the exact player Kenny Williams targeted.

Dunn essentially skipped 2011 in a fit of unprecedented (and unmet) expectations, but he's here now.

Career batting average? It's .243, exactly this season's number headed into the weekend. He's leading the universe in strikeouts, by plenty. But the home runs and RBI are there too. Dunn is once again a true "three outcome guy" in full bloom.

Now, White Sox fans can decide whether they want to enjoy this kind of player as seen every day. He'll frustrate you for games at a time, give you nothing or worse on defense, but deliver enough powerful run production to mitigate most negatives.

He and Paul Konerko are the main reasons the Sox have gotten so much out of the vital 3-4 slots in the lineup. A terrific start for both has the Sox ranked third in production from those spots, based on research done this week with WSCR radio producer/research savant Nick Shepkowski.

The White Sox average OPS (on-base % + slugging %) of .957 from 3-4 is behind only the Dodgers (usually Andre Ethier/Matt Kemp) at 1.102, and the Rangers (Josh Hamilton/Adrian Beltre) at 1.010.

That's heady company.

Can you imagine if there were a competent hitter in the second spot between Dunn/Konerko and leadoff man Alejandro De Aza? Instead, the Sox "K-hole" remains a source of frustration and missed opportunities.

Fourth on that list is the Giants tandem (Pablo Sandoval/Buster Posey), followed by the Rockies (Carlos Gonzalez/Troy Tulowitzki), the Indians (Carlos Santana/resurgent Travis Hafner), and … wait for it … the Cubs.

Starlin Castro and Bryan LaHair are the main cogs creating an OPS of .857 from the power spots in the Cubs starting nine.

LaHair is a great early season story, and his success doesn't appear to be an aberration. Watch a few games, dissect his at bats, and you'll see opposite field power, a smooth consistent swing, and patience for miles. He's 13th in MLB with 4.23 pitches seen per plate appearance (Dunn is third at 4.60).

LaHair's success is going to eventually force management's hand when Anthony Rizzo arrives.

Do you push the lumbering LaHair awkwardly into right field, an important defensive spot currently occupied by the mostly enjoyable Tony Campana? Or do you bench Alfonso Soriano from the much easier left field, regardless of what the effects on his "trade value" (HA!) might be. It's one of the more intriguing scenarios to anticipate for June or July.

Rounding out the top 10 in 3-4 hitter production (I heard you wondering), the Cardinals are eighth (Matt Holliday/Carlos Beltran), the Rays are ninth (now injured Evan Longoria/ex-Cub Carlos Pena), and the Tigers are an expensive 10th (Prince Fielder/Miguel Cabrera).

Speaking of expensive, dead last at 30th on this list you find the L.A. Angels. Albert Pujols' fascinating slump has rendered them remarkably impotent.

Rare is rare:

Josh Hamilton's four-homer game this week brought one of my absolute favorite statistical anomalies to the foreground.

A four HR game (16 times) is almost precisely as rare as a pitched perfect game (Philip Humber's was the 19th of the modern era), while hitting for the cycle (293 times) is almost exactly as rare as a no-hitter (274 times).

Now ask yourself, do those feats "feel" similar when they happen and you take notice? No, we tend to dismiss hitting for the cycle rather quickly.

Rarer still is the unassisted triple play (15 times) or two grand slams in one game (13 times).

Fernando Tatis of the 1999 Cardinals gets the rarest of all. His two grand slams IN ONE INNING is a feat doubtful to ever be duplicated.

There's something for both Dunn and LaHair to chase this season.

• Matt Spiegel co-hosts "The McNeil & Spiegel Show" 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday-Friday on WSCR 670-AM, and The Score's "Hit and Run" at 9 a.m. Sundays with his Daily Herald colleague, Barry Rozner. Follow him on Twitter @mattspiegel670. Matt thinks a runner trying to score from first on a double into the gap is the most exciting play in baseball.

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