If you get confused or annoyed during this, check out the stat primer for explanations.
The White Sox free agency is in bizarro-land. The sure-thing perennially producing DH is getting booed before his at-bats now. Jesse Crain and Will Ohman--relievers whose performance can't be trusted--are pretty much exactly the guys the Sox paid for. A.J. is having a mini-offensive resurgence, and his re-signing has still managed to be questionable
And Paul Konerko, the aging, tenured slugger with the flashy career-season in a contract year that they should have known better than to re-up, is threatening to have the best year of his career again.
His OPS is back up over the 1.000 plateau thanks to a streak where he's hit home runs in 5 consecutive games, which is as many in a row as any Sox player has ever whipped into the seats. I don't mean to be cynical when I say it's a once in a lifetime power streak, I mean to say that he's really, really hot at the moment. The fact that four were solo just speaks to how alone Paulie's been in carrying the offense.
It's been enough to spike his triple-slash to .331/.400/.610, which sits slightly ahead of last years numbers, but is even more impressive against the backdrop of this season's depressed run environment*. Through Monday, Konerko's wOBA was only .007 higher than his closing totals in 2010, but that rated him as 8% more above-average in run creation than he was last year.
But analyzing the quality of a hitter's season while they're at their high-water mark is an egregious error. Paulie achieved a .400 OBP, .600 SLG plateau in mid-June last season before easing into slightly more normal activities for a man with a pog-size bald spot. Still, there's hope in his method, not just his results.
While Dunn continues to scare the bejeesus out of the fan base by failing to square up fastballs, suggesting a possible sudden deterioration of a player whose type lends itself to sudden deterioration, Konerko is hammering heaters at 2.92 runs above-average per 100 (through Monday). That is fourth in all of baseball, and the only time Paulie has ever hit them anywhere near as good is....last season. And that'll do just fine.
When Konerko signed his 3 year, $37.5 million deal, he was essentially tasked with earning 7 WAR to make it not a waste. This is fudging the $2.5 million difference from 1 WAR on the open market equaling $5 million, and assuming it will be made up via inflation. 7 WAR over three seasons doesn't sound like much, but it's not the simplest feat for a slugger playing at a power position and adding little defensive and negative baserunning value. Fortunately, he's on pace to earn well over half that in his first season, which puts him in a good position to fulfill his contract even as he depreciates.
If he ever even does.
Adam Dunn remains in mortal peril, as he posted an 0-4, 2 K night on Tuesday that was just as bad as it sounded. He received some boos on the way to the plate, and faced a tidal wave after every out.
Critics of booing a hometown will cite that it does nothing positive (we're ignoring 'release therapy' in this case), but has the chance of doing something negative. How do we know it's having a negative effect? Well, Dunn tries to make that clear.
"Would it be a lot easier if I wasn't getting booed? Yes,'' Dunn said. "Imagine how frustrated I am. That's the only way to put it.''
"It's not the first time I've been booed I can tell you that.''
Asked if the booing makes it tougher for him to hit, Dunn said, "What do you think? You know what I'm saying? Would it be easier? Of course it would. But it is what it is. I don't go up there going oh no gotta get a hit here. That's part of it.''
Fans are going to be fans in the manner they see fit, it's one of the reason why being such a thing is fun. And if you are the type of fan who boos their own players; a big-time, big-money free agent who looks like a lineman, can't play defense or run, and strikes out all the time does kinda light up all the sensors, I'll admit.
So without taking any more of an ethical angle, the hitter in the lineup most clearly caught up in a mental and existential funk is now getting jeered with regularity in his home ballpark in a new town....how does that sound like it's going to go?
*I enjoy how 'in this run environment' has become the baseball equivalent of 'in this economy'. "You expect to find a decent job, in this economy?!?", "You expect to average 5 runs per game, in this run environment?!?!"