Stats say that Paul Konerko leads the way for Sox first basemen

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Former Chicago White Sox player Paul Konerko speaks during a ceremony retiring his No. 14 at U.S. Cellular Field before a baseball game between the White Sox and the Minnesota Twins in Chicago, Saturday, May 23, 2015. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)

BY JOHN GROCHOWSKI

When the White Sox honored Paul Konerko on Saturday, his No. 14 became their first retired number that belonged to a player who put in more than half his games at first base.

Frank Thomas played in 971 games at first for the Sox, but he was a designated hitter in 1,193. His 68.2 rWAR during his Sox years ranks him with Luke Appling (74.5) and Eddie Collins (66.6) as the best position players to play for the South Siders.

Among those who played more than half their games at first, here are the top five in career rWAR for the Sox:

5. Dick Allen, 1972-74, .307 batting average, .988 OPS, 85 home runs, 15.3 rWAR: For a brief, glorious burst, Allen was the best first baseman in Sox history. In 1972, he was the American League’s most valuable player, hit .302 and led the league in homers (37), RBI (113), OPS (1.023) and more. His 8.6 rWAR was second to Collins’ 9.4

in 1915 among all Sox

non-pitchers.

Alas, between injuries and personality conflicts, it couldn’t last long enough to build career totals that would move him up the list.

4. Frank Isbell, 1901-09,

.251 batting average, .620 OPS, 13 homers, 15.7 rWAR: Isbell was durable in the low-offense, dead-ball era. His .775 OPS in 1905 translated to a 149 OPS+, but his OPS+ was below

the 100 league average in six of his nine seasons with the Sox.

3. Zeke Bonura, 1934-37,

.317 batting average, .914 OPS, 79 homers, 16.3 rWAR: An rWAR of 5.0 represents All-Star level. Bonura hovered just below that for four seasons, with a best of 4.5 in 1936 and a low of 3.7 in 1935.

2. Earl Sheely, 1921-27,

.305 batting average, .804 OPS, 41 homers, 19.8 rWAR: Sheely, the Sox’ first baseman at the dawn of the live-ball era, was a solid offensive contributor. He never hit more than 11 homers, but his OPS+ hovered between 102

and 119.

1. Konerko, 1999-2014, .281 batting average, .847 OPS, 432 homers, 29.3 rWAR: Konerko was never as spectacular as Allen, with a peak rWAR of 4.7 in 2010, and he was on the negative side of defensive WAR in every season. But with seven seasons of 30 or more homers and an OPS+ of 120 with the Sox, Konerko had the best combination of production and durability in this group.

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