Well, it was worth a shot, wasn’t it?
After three straight All-Star seasons going into 2013, how could Paul Konerko just walk away from the Chicago White Sox, when there were still players like Chris Sale, Jake Peavy, and the return of Adam Dunn‘s 40-homer ways that suggested the Pale Hose might just be able to compete in the AL Central?
Those are the years that White Sox fans will remember as the final years of Konerko’s career, of course, and not this shell of the slugger in this mess of a swansong that is 2013.
In fact, it’s more than likely that when the veteran’s career is remembered years later, his likely final season in the bigs will only be a minor footnote, if not forgotten entirely as a mulligan. Though the decline was always going to come, it’d be fair to say that not too many folks would have seen this kind of drop-off coming from the celebrated fan favourite.
You don’t have to look very much farther than the .658 OPS he’s put up over 347 PA this season to see that Father Time has sent the slugger a memo about closing out his career. Whether it’s counting numbers (38 RBIs, eight homers) or not (78 wRC+, .111 ISO), it’s clear that what clubhouse benefits that Konerko brings will not be enough to overcome the detrimental effects he’s had on the team on the field.
At -1.5 fWAR, not only is he one of the worst players on the White Sox this season (second only to Jeff Keppinger), but would have ranked as the third-worst player in the bigs altogether … if he qualified, anyway.
So just what happened? Though his power has no doubt collapsed (7.2 percent HR/FB), it turns out that there may be a little bit of meddling done by the baseball gods here.
Sure, a .264 BABIP may be the simple answer, but he’s had a .263 back in 2007, and still managed to be a 30-homer, 1.7 fWAR player with a .841 OPS. It might surprise you that unlike the 17.4 percent line drives that he hit that year, Konerko is actually lining the ball at a career-high 26.3 percent while posting a disappointing .241/.305/.352 triple-slash.
Combined with a career-low 3.6 percent pop-up rate, you might even have a pretty good argument that the 37-year old should have at least been a singles machine.
Alas, whether from the decline of power or luck, the line drives have not fallen in. Also not helping is the fact that, however slowly, Konerko’s plate discipline is slipping too. At a career-high 44.7 swing rate (PITCHf/x era), it’s easy to seen why his walk rate has fallen to a 11-year low of 7.8 percent.
Put that all together, and you get a clear picture of a player who, however well loved by White Sox fans, will only be able to help the team by doing the one thing he’s been able to hold off thus far: walk away.
One more failed attempt at redemption would only do more harm than good.