Kahrl: Paul Konerko redefines expectations of what we know about players, careers, BABIP and regression

From SABR member Christina Kahrl at ESPN.com on April 10, 2013:

Make no mistake about it, Paul Konerko had a great spring in Arizona. He was among among the Cactus League leaders in homers, which seemed to silence questions about there being any lingering effects from the things that helped end his 2012 season on a down note: offseason surgery to remove bone fragments in his wrist knocked loose in June, plus an August concussion that sent him to the disabled list.

It wasn’t the way anyone would have wanted to see his year end after a red-hot start. But when asked about it in camp, if you think he’s worried about the past, guess again.

“I don’t really think about seasons and halves, I think about them as a full season,” Konerko said. He knows it’s what we all do, though — fans, writers and analysts alike. “I know from the outside, what people look at — just like I do when I’m looking at football or hockey or whatever — but as a player, it’s just different. When you’re in spring training, you don’t really think about the previous season at all. Whether I’ve had a season that I’ve really liked or a season that I’ve really disliked, the following spring training isn’t much different. You know, coming in, how you’re getting ready, you’re just looking ahead.”

That sense of purpose understates what the White Sox first baseman has done the past three seasons, which is raise his game at a time when offensive levels across baseball are going down. Let’s repeat that: At a time when it’s getting harder to hit, Konerko has been better than ever before.

Keep in mind, up through the 2009 season, Konerko was a player we already knew a lot about. Or at least, we thought we knew. He’d already given us 1,700 games and 326 home runs. He’d hit .277/.352/.491. He’d had a nice, predictable peak from ages 25 through 30, finishing it off with what was (then) a career-high .932 OPS in 2006. Then Konerko headed into his 30s, and he did what you’d expect from an older player: He declined. His OPS tumbled 90 points, then almost 150 from that career high.

Looking at that, if you follow the safe paths that sabermetrics so often tread, you might have expected more of the same.

Read the full article here: http://espn.go.com/blog/sweetspot/post/_/id/34607/konerko-redefines-challenges-expectations

Originally published: April 10, 2013. Last Updated: April 10, 2013.