Tuesday, May 29, 2012
A quick note about Paul Konerko
By David Schoenfield
Paul Konerko went 2-for-4 on Opening Day and hasn't really stopped hitting. Since May 15, however, he's hit .600 (24-for-40) with five home runs, four doubles and 14 RBIs in 11 games, raising his season line to .395/.471/.672, the second-highest OPS in the majors behind Josh Hamilton.
The somewhat remarkable aspect of this, of course, is Konerko is 36 years old and better than ever. I thought I'd look up the best seasons ever by a 36-year-old first baseman.
From Baseball-Reference.com, minimum 500 plate appearances, in order of OPS+:
Stan Musial, 1957 Cardinals: 172 (led NL with a .351 average and .422 OBP)
Darrell Evans, 1983 Giants: 150 (hit .277/.378/.516 with 30 home runs)
Norm Cash, 1971 Tigers: 149 (.283/.372/.531 with 32 home runs)
Will Clark, 2000 Orioles/Cardinals: 145 (.319/.418/.546 in final season)
Jake Beckley, 1904 Cardinals: 145 (seventh in NL in OPS)
There have been other great seasons, of course. Andres Galarraga led the NL with 140 RBIs in 1997 with the Rockies. Rafael Palmeiro hit 47 home runs in 2001. Carlos Delgado went 38 and 115 with the 2008 Mets. Konerko's adjusted OPS is 205, certainly putting him line for the best hitting season ever by a 36-year-old first sacker.
In terms of WAR, Musial's '57 comes out on top at 5.8 wins above replacement, followed by Rod Carew's .319 season with the '82 Angels at 4.5 (helped by a terrific defense rating).
Only five first basemen age 36 or older have hit .300 with 30-plus home runs: Hank Aaron (who was 37 when he did it 1971), Galarraga did it twice (1997 and then 1998 with the Braves), Mark McGwire in 2000 (in 321 plate appearances) and Fred McGriff in 2001. With 11 home runs, Konerko is on pace for 36.