Since the start of the season, we've used a lot of bandwidth here at SSS talking about the underperformers (Gordon Beckham, Brent Morel, Dayan Viciedo), the rebounders (Jake Peavy, Adam Dunn, Alex Rios), the inexperienced (Chris Sale, Hector Santiago, Alejandro De Aza), the experienced (Alexei Ramirez, Gavin Floyd, John Danks) and the perfect (Philip Humber).
One guy, in accordance with his personality, hasn't gotten much press this month. In fact, this is the first time since last October that his name has appeared in a SSS headline. He even hit his 400th home run last week and he barely got a mention in the game recap. That guy is Paul Konerko and he's only the best White Sox position player by a wide margin.
Al Yellon would have a field day with Hawk Harrelson. A lot his stories and observations contain less than factual recollections and assertions. He gives opinions that, if not obviously ridiculous, reek of homerism. I'd thought that one of those opinions was his oft-repeated "Paulie keeps getting better and better". It flies in the face of conventional wisdom and age curves that a 36 year old would see his skills and performance improve, not decline.
But when you look at the numbers, this is one time it's hard to argue with Hawk. Konerko's 2010 and 2011 seasons were two of his best (if not the best) offensive seasons. And he's continued this upward trend into the 2012 season.From the start of his career to the end of 2009, Konerko's triple slash line was .283/.359/.502 with a wOBA of .368. This includes what was a rather nice late 20s offensive peak between 2004-2006: .291/.372/.540 and a .386 wOBA. From that peak, Konerko was enjoying a gentle decline towards retirement.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the avocado farm. Since the beginning of 2010, his line is .311/.394/.560 and a .404 wOBA. A rather remarkable achievement, particularly in these post-Steroid Era days. To put his hitting performance into perspective, only Miguel Cabrera, Jose Bautista, Joey Votto and Josh Hamilton have higher wOBAs over that same time period. [When this post went to press, Konerko was just ahead of Ryan Braun, whose monster performance last night may have switched their order.]
Now, no one is going to pretend Konerko is one of the top five players in baseball. He is held back by position, defense and plodding baserunning. But, on this White Sox team, he's indispensable. And we generally only concern ourselves with the indispensable when the indispensable isn't doing its job. Konerko does his job.
In accordance with his performance over the last two seasons, and despite the small sample size superstars one often finds in a given month, Konerko in 2012 is right where you'd expect him to be: among the top five offensive performers.
So let's give the quiet man his due. And then we can get back to the really important topics, like whether Dallas McPherson should play third base. Whenever we turn our attention back to Konerko, he'll be right where we left him.