Rumors of Lance Berkman's demise may have been greatly exaggerated, but it would be equally unwise to put too much stock in his recovery.
In a season more notable for star players off to slow starts and a league-wide offensive malaise, the way Lance Berkman has scalded the ball at the outset of his Cardinals career is nothing less than shocking. Not only was he hitting .390/.461/.750 through Tuesday in a league averaging only .250/.320/.388, but he was doing so after a 2010 season that saw him reduced from perennial All-Star status to ineffectual part-time work with the Yankees.
There was plenty of reason to think that Berkman’s posterior was ready to have the proverbial fork stuck in it. Thirty-four years old last year, Berkman lost the beginning of the season to knee surgery, and when he returned his bat didn’t have the life that had produced career .299/.412/.555 rates through the end of 2009. He endured painful slumps such as a mid-June stretch of 10 games in which he went 6-for-36 with 13 strikeouts, his problems hitting left-handers, a career-long problem for this switch-hitter, became extreme, and a power stroke that had produced as many as 55 doubles and 45 home runs in a season seemed to have weakened.
The Berkman acquired by the Yankees was bloated, slow, and indecisive both at the plate and in the field, a far cry from the athlete who was capable of taking regular turns in center field in his mid-20s. Hitters tend to have a fairly linear evolution to their careers—normally, when they start to go, they don’t come back. Berkman’s physical deterioration, combined with his miserable results in New York (.255/.358/.349, one home run in 123 plate appearances) seemed to suggest that the Cardinals’ plan to sign him and give him regular playing time in an outfield corner ranked somewhere between foolishly optimistic and delusional.
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Lance Berkman reminds Astros fans that he wears big shoes, but Brett Wallace may be capable of filling them; Alfonso Soriano rarely gets on base but often drives himself in.
It was an eye-opening week in Minute Maid Park, as Zod and the other residents of Planet Houston were treated to superb performances from first basemen of the Astros' past, present, and—perhaps—future.
Lance Berkman, the twelve-year Astros veteran who was traded to the Yankees late last year before signing with the Cardinals over the winter, made his return to Houston as a visiting player on Tuesday. He was well-received by the fans, who gave him an extended standing ovation in his first at-bat. When he laced a single to right field off of an inside fastball from Bud Norris, the crowd erupted into more cheers. Needless to say, the man with the second-most home runs in franchise history is still very popular in the Bayou City.
A look at the hitters whose True Average fell sharply from one season to the next and how they fared the following season.
Lance Berkman had a down year. I know that isn’t exactly earth-shattering news, but he did not perform up to the level we have come to expect given his career numbers. At 34 years old, he is unlikely to continue to hit like he did in the early part of his career, but his 2010 numbers paled in comparison to those produced a year ago, when he hit .274/.399/.509 with a .314 TAv. In 2010, Berkman put up a .288 TAv while hitting .248/.368/.413. Though his season was plagued by injuries, he managed a mere 14 home runs, and that slash line looks strange when attached to his name. The numbers were not terrible, but rather different, considering that he has never posted a BA below .274, an OBP below .386, an SLG below .509, or a TAv below .300.
Attempting to find a way to make the rebuilding process for the Astros go by much quicker.
The Astros have some significant decisions to make leading up to the July 31 trade deadline. The course they take over the next 10 days could alter the direction that the franchise heads in—either way, that R word no fan base likes to hear will be used, but the length of time the Astros and their fans have to suffer can be lessened significantly.
General manager Ed Wade has a chance to be the Houston Astros' personal Hari Seldon. If he deals Roy Oswalt, Lance Berkman, and Brett Myers for pieces they can use in the future, Houston's Dark Age (which it is already in the midst of) will be much shorter than if they are left to build entirely from within. We're not talking the difference between 1,000 years and 30,000, but there is a difference between a five-year plan and a Pittsburgh Pirates-esque fall into the under-.500 abyss that could ultimately last much longer.
Understanding neuroscience could help devolop better switch-hitters.
Last week we took a look at SHINOs, switch-hitters in name only, who were defined as batters that swung a mighty broomstick from one side of the plate but fell below the league average from the other. They certainly switched, but the handedness of the pitcher determined if they were to hit like Willie Mays or Willy Taveras.
Before all the IBA ballots are counted, staff picks give a hint as to what hands the awards may find themselves in.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Travis Hafner posted the highest OBP in the AL while nobody noticed, while Neifi Perez ended up getting playoff PT. The young guns had their day and then some. Jermaine Dye gave a lengthy spanking to his 90th percentile PECOTA projection (PECOTA's .288/.359/.516 versus an actual .315/.385/.622). The crop of AL rookies included a guy with a 0.92 ERA finishing third, and rooks like Jered Weaver (105:33 K:BB) and Francisco Liriano (144:32) threatening to be Johan Santana's biggest challengers in 2007. The National League featured tighter races, including a four-way brawl for the Pitcher of the Year and another impressive crop of newbies.
Eight staff members weighed in on the season that was, casting their ballots for the Internet Baseball Awards. We summarized their findings below, and then let them have their individual say.