How Konerko took the batting average lead

Paul Konerko is in the middle of one of the greatest hot streaks you’ll ever see, and it has propelled the Chicago White Sox to nine wins in their last 10 games.

In those 10 games, Konerko is hitting .639 with five home runs and 14 RBIs. In that span, he has 23 hits in 36 at-bats. It has raised his season batting average to a major-league best .399, surpassing David Wright.

There are a couple of things in this surge that are improbable.

  • Konerko is 9-for-10 against pitches that our pitch classification system classifies as “middle-middle” (in other words, pitches that are over both the middle-third of the plate height-wise and width-wise).

    The typical major league hitter hits about .330 against pitches to that location. Konerko has historically been above average, but not quite to this level. From 2009 to 2011, he had a .405 batting average against middle-middle pitches.

  • Konerko has five home runs. But on the other 11 fly balls that he’s hit, he’s 7-for-11.

    The average major leaguer gets hits on about 16 percent of his fly balls that stay in the yard, so 2-for-11 would be the sort of performance that would be expected. Over the past two seasons, Konerko has gotten hits on about 15 percent of the fly balls that stayed in the park.

    Konerko has managed to sneak a few bloops in the right spots. This image shows the approximate locations for his fly ball hits in this stretch. It would be fair to describe six of them as “shallow fly balls.”

  • Konerko is 7-for-12 (.583) with four home runs with two strikes. The average major leaguer is hitting .176 in two-strike situations. Konerko was better than that, though not otherworldly, with a .218 batting average in such spots from 2009 to 2011. He had six two-strike home runs in all of 2011.