Posted by BaconSlayer09
No, I’m not talking about Donkey Kong video games. For those who don’t know, Adam Dunn’s nickname is the Big Donkey and Paul Konerko’s much unknown nickname is Kong (I don’t know why either). Add one plus the other with some minor subtractions and you have yourself a nice new nickname – Donkey Kong. Now we have that out of the way, it’s time to get down to business.
In the past two weeks, White Sox general manager Kenny Williams has been a busy and free-spending man. After locking-up Adam Dunn for 4 years and $56 million and retaining A.J. Pierzynski for 2 years and $8 million last week, Williams brought back one of the most influential White Sox of all time – captain Paul Konerko. Konerko will continue to make the $12 million he has been making for the past 5 seasons for 2011 and 2012. He will make $13.5 million in 2013, but $7 million of that is deferred and to be paid from 2014-2020.
The White Sox are committing 3 years and $30.5 million to Konerko over the next three years up front. That kind of contract expects Konerko to be at least a 2.5 win player every year for the next three years, with a total of 6-7 wins over the entirety of the contract. Even though Konerko is already 35 and the White Sox are paying him through age 38, this deal is fair and plausible. Konerko racked up 4.2 WAR last season in a career year offensively. Had his defense been better, he could have easily been a 5 WAR player. Personally, I don’t see Konerko as a -10 to -15 fielder like some of the advanced metrics do. He doesn’t have a lot of range, but he’s fairly reliable and is pretty good at scooping low throws at first base. I’d expect Konerko’s defensive numbers to increase over the course of the contract, as last year’s defensive numbers were probably more of an anamoly than anything else. Konerko’s never been worse than a -6.5 at 1B in his career and first base defense usually doesn’t deteriorate as much with age.
Offensively, I don’t expect Konerko to repeat 2010 and I don’t think anybody else does either. Konerko had one of the better offensive seasons in White Sox history with a wOBA of .415 last season. However, his career wOBA is .366 and his highest wOBA prior to 2010 was .395 in 2006, when he was still in his prime. Konerko’s career year at age 34 is very hard to explain. Health is one thing to look into, as Konerko has been bothered by a chronic thumb injury since 2007 and last year was the first time where that injury wasn’t a big problem.
Another explanation is just straight up luck. Konerko did post the highest BABIP of his career at .326 (he also posted this in 2006). Konerko’s batted ball rates were extremely similar to those of 2009, where he had only a .282 BABIP. That could explain the rise in average, but it definitely doesn’t explain the rise in home runs and the 60 point increase in ISO (Isolated power). Maybe it’s a little bit of both. Perhaps, we won’t see Konerko hit over .300 again, but we might still see 30-35 home runs from him over the next two seasons with a slugging percentage over .500. The Bill James Handbook (usually pretty optimistic) pegs Konerko for a slash line of .273/.361/.496 and 32 home runs in 2011. I think those projections sound pretty accurate and if Konerko were to return to his career norms on defense, he will definitely be a 3 win player in 2011.
Speaking of projections, here are the projected wOBA of the projected 2011 White Sox starting lineup (taken from the Bill James Handbook).
- LF. Juan Pierre – .304
- 2B. Gordon Beckham – .338
- CF. Alex Rios – .343
- DH. Adam Dunn – .383
- 1B. Paul Konerko – .372
- RF. Carlos Quentin – .362
- C. A.J. Pierzynski – .312
- SS. Alexei Ramirez – .327
- 3B. Brent Morel – .339
Besides Brent Morel’s overly optimistic projection, everything looks within the realm of possibility. When analyzed, this lineup projects to score 5.15 runs per game, that’s 835 runs over the course of 162 games. Last year, the White Sox scored 752. The addition of Adam Dunn (replacing Kotsay and rotating DH friends) and Morel (replacing Teahen and señor citizen Vizquel) adds about 80 more runs of output to the White Sox lineup. The 835 run mark would have been the second most amount of runs scored in all of baseball last season.
Defensively, nothing really changes. If Quentin can heal from his foot injuries, he might not be a horrible outfielder. Plus, Morel has been touted as a good defender in the minors, so he replaces the 3B revolving door of Teahen and Vizquel. Overall, this is a mediocre defense. Rios, Pierre, and Ramirez are highlights, but everybody else is either mediocre or flat out bad.
What does this all mean? Well, in what’s now a pitching dominated league, the White Sox are projected to have one of the most potent lineups in all of baseball. Whether these projections are right or wrong is a debate for later. But on paper, things sure look good if the White Sox can pitch like they did in 2010 (702 runs allowed). It’s still very early in the off-season and the Sox still need to fill a couple of holes in the bullpen. However, as of right now, the Sox are looking at a 5-6 win improvement from 2010, making them a prime candidate to win around 93-94 games (88 + 6 = 94) in 2011. With a payroll nearing $120 million, the White Sox should be expected to win in 2011. It looks like Jerry Reinsdorf and Kenny Williams are going all in this year.