Paul Konerko finished the 2012 season with a homer in his last game. Now facing wrist surgery, what can we expect from Konerko in 2013?
Konerko will have barely had the chance to clean out his locker before undergoing surgery on his left hand Thursday. The procedure involves removing a bone fragment that has hindered him on and off since the 2008 season.
Both this summer and in 2011, the White Sox slugger chose to address the issue with injections designed to move the fragment into a less painful part of the wrist joint. After capping off his season with a home run in Chicago's 9-0 win in Cleveland Wednesday, Konerko was ready to take care of what has been a nagging problem.
Konerko's numbers don't really tell an accurate story of his production this season. A quick glance at his average and power numbers suggest an effort in the ballpark of his work in each of the last two seasons. A .298 average and 26 home runs isn't a terrible season for any full-time player, let alone a 36-year-old veteran.
However, it was a tale of two halves of the season for Konerko. Here's how his 144 games look split down the middle.
First 72 games: 267 AB, .337/.412/.551, 14 homers, 42 RBI, .963 OPS
Last 72 games: 266 AB, 259/.328/.412, 12 homers, 33 RBI, .741 OPS
Can Paul Konerko successfully return from offseason surgery?
One half was All-Star worthy, the other not so much. The slide really began in late May, after Konerko posted a .399 average on May 26. From the next day until the All-Star break, his average was an anemic .236 and he managed just three home runs.
Jermaine Dye had a similar drop off in the second half of 2009. Despite season number of 27 homers and 81 RBI, Dye went home following the season and never came back. Konerko's drop off may not have been as drastic as Dye's was, but both players definitely wore down in a way the may not have in their 20's.
To be fair, Konerko did have the wrist issue as well as a concussion in August that saw him miss a week of games. However, in each of the last two seasons he has faded as the season has progressed.
Konerko has a contract for 2013 and the fact that he's getting his wrist taken care of so quickly points to a return next spring. He isn't using the bone fragment as an excuse for his second half slide, but it's a good bet it may have been a contributing factor.
Konerko turns 37 next March. He has hit .297 over the last four seasons and put up impressive numbers in that time. Will a repaired Konerko be able to defy the aging process for what may be his final season? That question may prove more difficult to answer going into this winter.