White Sox need Paul Konerko to rake

Originally Published: August 16, 2011
ESPN.com

Editor's note: Throughout August, ESPN.com will take a close look at various teams in the hunt for a playoff spot to assess whether they have what it takes to survive the dog days of August and remain in contention come October.

At the bottom of the page, each team will receive a dog bone rating based on our overall analysis: five bones = serious postseason contender; four bones = good contender; three bones = average contender; two bones = poor contender; one bone = no contender.

Who's the big dog?

Paul Konerko
Konerko

Paul Konerko has seemingly been a one-man offense for the White Sox at times. He's the only regular with an on-base percentage above .350, and he and Carlos Quentin are the only two White Sox with more than 12 home runs. Konerko quietly ranks fourth in the AL in OPS behind only Jose Bautista, Miguel Cabrera and Adrian Gonzalez. He's hitting .375/.490/.600 in August, and the Sox may need that kind of production the rest of the way.

-- David Schoenfield, SweetSpot

Who needs to step up?

Well, this one is pretty easy: Adam Dunn, Alex Rios and Brent Morel have been three of the worst players in the majors in 2011. According to FanGraphs.com, Dunn rates as the least valuable player, and Rios is in the bottom 10. Morel's glove saves him from that low a ranking, but with two home runs and four walks in 292 plate appearances, he's killing the Sox with his bat as well. Manager Ozzie Guillen appears determined to keep playing these three instead of finding better solutions, so some kind of improved production -- even a little -- is necessary.

-- David Schoenfield, SweetSpot

Key stat: fastball hitting

For the Chicago White Sox to continue their streak of recent success, they will need to continue their recent improvement in fastball hitting. During the first four months of the season, the White Sox struggled against the fastball, batting .261 with a .399 slugging percentage and a .735 OPS. In August, the White Sox turned things around, batting .312 against the fastball with a .505 slugging percentage and an .885 OPS.

One of the biggest offensive weapons for the White Sox is slugger Paul Konerko, who has been on fire against the fastball, most notably this month.

-- Kimberly Meyer, ESPN Stats & Info

Where are they going?

After hundreds of articles this season written about the struggles of Adam Dunn and Alex Rios, nobody should be shocked by the suggestion that a lot of the blame for the Chicago White Sox's current third-place standing in the AL Central rests on their shoulders. Every team has disappointing players, but in Dunn and Rios, you have two disappointing years of historical significance from players who were expected to play large roles in the offense.

Back in June, we looked at the biggest drop-off seasons in MLB history as measured by OPS drop-off from the previous three-year average. At the time, Dunn's .658 OPS would have been the sixth-largest drop-off in history. Since then, Dunn has played even worse, with his seasonal OPS down to .590, or that of a really good-hitting pitcher rather than a major league designated hitter. That .590 moves Dunn to second all time in biggest drop-off years just behind 1926 Rogers Hornsby, who was at least still a competent player in his down season. Rios wasn't expected to hit as well as Dunn has, but he's managed to be even more feeble offensively, with a .563 OPS.

For more of Dan Szymborski's analysis, click here. Insider