It’s now May 13th, and we are approximately 25% of the way through the baseball season. Most informed observers of the game will, correctly, point out that we are still early in the season to be drawing conclusions based on 35 games worth of data. Nevertheless, I’m getting sick and tired of the “small sample size” answer (even though it is probably correct more often than not), and so I spent some time today looking through the early season performances trying to ferret out a few conclusions that we CAN draw even though we’re not half way to the All-Star Break. In no particular order:
(1) Paul Konerko is about done. First things first: Paul Konerko is an incredible baseball player, and has probably been underrated most of his career because he played 1B during the steroid era. His career line of 282/358/497 and 426 HRs is elite (for reference, Hall of Famer Billy Williams finished his career with a 290/361/492 and 426 HRs), and Konerko has become beloved on the South Side and he’s played all but a handful of his career games in a White Sox uniform. Nevertheless, Father Time appears ready to extend his undefeated record – 2013 is Konerko’s 37 year old season, and currently holds a 214/273/349 triple slash. His walk rate has dipped from 12.1% in 2011 to 6.5% this season and his Ks are up from 13% to over 18%. Baseballheatmaps.com shows us than in 2011, his flyballs were averaging 287 feet, but those flyballs are down to 258 this season. It pains me to say it, but Paulie, he gone.
(2) Wow was I wrong about Dustin Ackley. I wrote here that people in a panic over Dustin Ackley’s 2012 campaign were misguided, and with a little luck on balls in play, Ackley could be a decent hitter (and already is a very good defender at 2B). Well, fast forward to 2013 – that was way off. I see nothing in Ackley’s profile that portends a turn around at the plate, and I’ve had the misfortune to watch more than a few Mariners games this season. Ackley looks off balance and lost at the plate, pull happy but sporting no power when pitchers do make the mistake of throwing fastballs middle in rather than soft stuff away. Ackley’s discipline as a 23 year old rookie has completely evaporated, and though he makes slightly more contact now, the contact is weaker than ever before (ISO has dropped from 144 to 102 to 050). He’s hitting grounders at a 56% rate now and pitchers are throwing fewer and fewer strikes to him. If you can find anyone still willing to bank on a turnaround, sell for whatever you can get.
(3) Jeremy Guthrie? C’mon. I confess that I’ve never understood Jeremy Guthrie – he came out of Stanford and today as a 34 year old still averages over 92 on his fastball. But he has over 1200 IP in the majors and sits on a 4.20 ERA/4.62 xFIP – certainly he has some innings eater value, but beyond that I’ve never understood why he couldn’t generate more whiffs than his career 5.45 K/9. Fast forward to 2013, Guthrie through 7 starts has thrown 47 innings and is 5-0 for Kansas City, sporting a 2.28 ERA. Why? Well, not hard to see why: his HR, walk and K rates are exactly in line with career norms, but his strand rate is 93% and BABIP is .250. With the bases empty, hitters have hit 246/325/509 against Guthrie with 7 HRs – with runners on, 224/246/269 with zero homers. Guthrie is going to come crashing down hard – hopefully it will be another fantasy owner that feels the blow.
Next time: Early season hot starts to believe in.