The Chicago White Sox have outperformed low expectations so far this season, but slugger Paul Konerko has managed to best even the most optimistic projections by absolutely tearing the cover off the baseball in 2012. Paulie is an early American League MVP candidate -- he ranks No. 1 in the AL in Batting Average (.384), No. 1 in on-base percentage (.462), No. 2 in slugging (.649) and No. 2 in OPS (1.111) -- along with Rangers OF Josh Hamilton, and his numbers look even better when compared to his positional peers.
Grant Brisbee of Baseball Nation broke down the numbers, and two trends are at work: (1) first basemen are hitting terribly as a group, which defies the historical trends in nearly every sense, and (2) Paul Konerko is just plain mashing the ball.
Here is a look at how Konerko compares to the other 1B in the American League using OPS+. As noted by FanGraphs.com, "OPS+ normalizes a player's On-Base Plus Slugging such that 100 OPS+ is league average, and each point up or down is one percentage point above or below league average."
Konerko is nearly twice as productive as the average AL first baseman. That's simply spectacular. As Grisbee notes, it makes the rest of the field seem even more strange by comparison:
"It's Konerko going nuts, a couple of guys having good-not-great years, and then an avalanche of disappointment. Those names at the bottom. My word. Look at the bottom-half of that list. Well, not Justin Smoak. You figured he'd be hanging out there, trying not to look guilty and sheepish. But the rest of them. It's not like this was a slow devolution that we saw coming a few years ago. The best of the best are now the worst of the worst."
Ahem. The best are now the worst of the worst, with the exception of Konerko.