There are 11 days till pitchers and catchers report for the Chicago White Sox. This is the first of the player reviews as we are preparing for the new season that’s almost upon us!
To paraphrase Coach Lou Brown talking to catcher Jake Taylor in “Major League 2”, “the reason we’re keeping you on is to help mentor the younger guys.” That’s what it seems like the White Sox have planned for Paul Konerko this season. He might not be an official coach but with newly signed rookie Jose Abreu at first base, the Sox are counting on Konerko to assist in grooming his replacement this season.
Konerko has largely been a model of consistency in his MLB career. He has had five down years in the 14 years he’s been in the league but the other nine have been filled with seasons of .277 or higher batting averages. He’s a career .281 hitter, who has made contact 79 percent of the time or higher since 2002. The man has clearly made a habit of putting the bat on the ball. Like coaches always tell players, the way to make the defense work is to put the ball in play. Weird things can happen but only if you make contact.
Even in a bad year, the Captain still made his average amount of contact. He made contact 81.5% of the time, but unfortunately for him it didn’t lead to getting on base. While not the lowest of his career, a .244 average is almost .040 away from his norm. All of his important numbers were down; hits, runs, doubles, homeruns, RBI, and walks along with his average. Those are numbers Konerko usually thrives in, especially the doubles.
People may chalk the decline up to a lack of consistent at-bats, but he was only down about 80 at bats from what he’s been averaging since the 2007 season.
While there weren’t a ton of opportunities for the Sox with runners in scoring position, it was a stat that Konerko can take away as a positive from 2013. As a whole the team batted .256 with runners in scoring position. Konerko’s average in those situations? A very respectable .319, made even more remarkable by his poor batting average in other situations.
There were only a couple of game situations that he struggled in last season, with one being bases loaded chances. With the “sacks jacked”, to borrow a phrase from Hawk Harrelson, Konerko had just 1 hit in 9 at bats. The other situation was with runners on second and third, where he only went 1-for-6. All other combinations of runners on base he batted .286 (2 for 7) or higher. So there’s at least one positive he can take from an off year.
There is another area of the game Paul Konerko has always had positive impact on, it’s fielding. Only two people on the team had more chances to make plays last year than him, Ramirez at shortstop and Tyler Flowers at catcher. In 652 chances he only had 4 errors. The man’s always had great reflexes at digging balls out of the ground on throws and fielding the position. A healthy Konerko at first is one of the best in the league at fielding his position.
In adding his whole year together, I gave Paul Konerko, first baseman and designated hitter of the Chicago White Sox a C- for the season. The lack of numbers in the categories he usually thrives in and lack of average brought it down. However, his defense and runners in score position stats kept my grade from falling any further than it did.
In the past he’s rebounded nicely from rough seasons. Only time will tell if that’ll remain true after it’s all said and done Sept. 29th.