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Paul Konerko's Free Agency and Value

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Not to put a damper on the White Sox parade (literally the parade is today) but if you resign Paul Konerko, there is a very good chance you will be overpaying for him. This of course goes for every other team that may want the services of the first basemen as well. His postseason helped make him more of a national figure, which in turn raises his price tag. Think Carlos Beltran, except Konerko does not deserve to be the highest paid player on the market this winter. First of all, let's take a look at Konerko's Established Performance Level according to Net Runs Above Average. Net Runs Above Average is a number that combines offensive and defensive value together into one rate statistic where 0.00 is league average.

Thanks entirely to Konerko's 2005 campaign, his EPL is higher than his previous two seasons of play. To be honest though, around 13-15 NRAA seems like a fair assesment of Konerko's ability. His defense was higher this season than any year previous, and he is inconsistent according to Rate2 throughout his career. For those new to Rate2, it is a defensive metric for runs above or below average per 100 games. A Rate2 of 105 means Player X was 5 runs above average per 100 games, and a Rate2 of 95 would mean the exact opposite. Considering his defense gave him a great deal of additional value this season a regression to the mean would certainly put a damper on the hopes of whatever team forks over a significant amount of cash for him.

Konerko's homefield gives him a boost offensively, which can easily be seen by looking at his home/road splits:

This year his road Batting Average on Balls in Play (which is (H-HR)/(AB-HR-K)) was higher than his home figure. His career BABIP on the road (excepting 2005, which seems flukish) is .278, which leads me to believe that in 2006 we will see regression to the mean on Konerko's road stats, which for the first time in awhile (homeruns aside) did not look bad on their own. Which also means that we can expect the 2004 Konerko more than the 2005 Konerko next season. One more issue I have with his raw numbers is in his walk total from 2005. He was issued 81 unintentional walks, but I think part of that was due to the hitters behind him. Aaron Rowand (.854 mOPS) and A.J. Pierzynski (.841 mOPS) had 386 combined plate appearances in the #5 spot behind Paul Konerko, who had all but 29 of his PA out of the cleanup spot. How many intentional unintentional walks do you think were given to Konerko in order to face the league average twins in the 5 slot? By the way, league average mOPS in 2005 was .874, leaving the two aforementioned hitters further behind than my previous statement would lead you to believe. Konerko's BB/PA has climbed every year since 2002 (.070 to .087 to .107 to this year's .122) but Chicago's offense was also without Frank Thomas and Magglio Ordonez for much of 2004, and without any real sluggers besides Konerko all but the 34 games Thomas appeared in this year. Konerko may have actually increased his plate patience, but time will tell.

As far as Konerko's salary goes, we can use Nate Silver's expected salary toy that I am slowly becoming enamored with.

I think the figures are all a little high for the predicted salary, but I am assuming Nate Silver is using the current market structure rather than what we all wish the market looked like. With that in mind, take a look at the fact that Konerko should have been in debt to the White Sox until 2005, where he all of a sudden earned more than his keep with his 7.5 WARP performance. Continuing on with our idea that his 2006 will look slightly better than his 2004, I estimated his 2006 WARP1 to be 5.2, which gives us a predicted salary figure of $7.85 million, or less than he made in 2005. How much will he pull in? Most likely closer to his 2005 expected salary than his 2006 predicted one. Buyer beware on this one.