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Under the Radar MLB Topics

by Photo of Ross Bernhardt

Paul Konerko and Melky Cabrera are having terrific, albeit under-the-radar, seasons.

Under the Radar MLB Topics

It's interesting how some topics dominate the landscape of sports discussion while other equally (or maybe more) worthy subjects (teams, players, etc.) get sort of swept under the rug.  I understand that the discussion is driven by what is going to get draw attention, whether that be viewership or clicks, and some things are more popular than others.  But some things deserve discussion, no matter how unpopular they might seem.  Here are just a few things going on in baseball that I only just learned about because there seems to be a lack of discussion on the matter.

The Amazing Starts of Paul Konerko and Melky Cabrera

(All stats via Baseball-Reference.com)

Paul Konerko is about as reliable as they come these days in terms of production.  He's hit at least 21 home runs in 12 of the last 13 years (including seven over 30), driven in 90+ RBI in nine of those seasons (six over 100), and posted batting averages greater than .300 four times (including two years in a row).  His OPS has been greater than .850 in eight of those seasons, and it only seems like he is getting better as he gets older.  

At 36 years of age, Konerko is turning in his finest season to date, yet it's been lost in the shuffle.  Between Josh Hamilton's amazing start and Derek Jeter's early flirtation with .400, Konerko sort of got left behind.  While Hamilton has yet to really cool down (.365/21/56), Jeter has come back to earth average-wise (.338), but Konerko has remained red-hot.  Through 47 games, Konerko is batting .381 with 11 home runs and 33 RBI.  He is leading the league in batting average, second in OBP only to David Wright, third in hits behind Melky Cabrera and Derek Jeter, and second in Slugging/ OPS to Josh Hamilton.  

Why isn't Konerko getting more attention?  Is it because he plays for the White Sox (who are leading the AL Central and have better records than the Yankees, Red Sox, Tigers, and Angels)?  Probably.  Is it because we expect this kind of production out of him at this point in his career?  Probably not.  I guess that would be a compliment, sort of, but how long does Konerko have to keep this up before people start talking about it?  He was hitting .399 at the start of Sunday, and I only found that out by chance.  We know how consistently good of a player Konerko is and has been throughout his career, but just because we know that doesn't mean we couldn't use reminders.

Melky Cabrera is another good example.  Here is a player who is following up a surprisingly successful 2011 with the Kansas City Royals with an even better season.  Last year, Cabrera batted over .300 for the first time in his career.  This year, all he's doing is leading the national league in batting average (.376), majors in hits (77), runs (38), triples (6), and total bases (114).  At 27, Cabrera is entering his prime years and is giving the Giants some sorely needed offensive production.  

But despite Cabrera's great start, the Giants got out of the gate slow compared to the red-hot Dodgers, and I'm thinking because of that Cabrera has gone unnoticed.  Perhaps my east coast bias comes into play here, but it isn't like Cabrera's feats are being touted or followed regularly.  Perhaps some also see it as a fluke, since it's Melky Cabrera, and he'll have to fall back to Earth eventually.  Either way, it's not fair to the Melk Man that he isn't getting his proper due.

Weird Stat

Wins by pitchers are a weird stat and often misleading stat, but good starting pitchers traditionally are supposed to have many wins.  Two starting pitchers that were supposed to be big parts of their respective team's success will end the month of May with zero wins on the season.  Cliff Lee of the Philadelphia Phillies and Doug Fister of the Detroit Tigers are winless.

There are many reasons for this.  Fister's is more obvious.  He has only made six starts on the season due to injury and he is about to make his second trip to the disabled list.  You can't win games when you don't pitch, and Fister just hasn't been able to stay healthy.

With Cliff Lee, the reasons are mixed.  He also spent a stretch of time on the disabled list after his epic duel with Matt Cain back in April and only has seven starts to his name.  But Lee has pitched pitched incredibly well when he hasn't been injured.  He's only had two starts that I would consider bad, but the offense and the bullpen have let him down so far.  A pitcher with a 2.82 should have at least one win.

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