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Lance Berkman: Answering His Critics

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Last night Cardinals outfielder Lance Berkman went 4-5 with 2 HRs and 5 RBIs to help the Cardinals beat Berkman's former team the Astros. Before the three game series started, Astros radio announcer Milo Hamilton (he used to be the Pirates radio announcer when I was younger IIRC-yeah, I'm old) sarcastically stated the following via Brenham Banner Press:

Seeing Berkman’s improved physique this season - and his improved stat line - prompted Hamilton to say, "Wouldn’t it have been great to have given that same dedication to the Astros and your owner here that you did in two short months to the Cardinals? Wouldn’t it have been nice to have finished your career here?"

Well, Berkman apparently took those words to heart and responded at the plate rather than spoken words. I have to admit, I had written Berkman off this season. He has underperformed expectations the last two seasons, partly because of injuries, and looking back, partly because he hit in a terrible Astros lineup.

More on Berkman after the jump:

In 2009, he hit "just" .274-.399-.509 with 25 HRs and 80 RBIs and 73 runs scored. I say that because in 2008, Berkman hit .312-.420-.567 with 29 HRs, 106 RBIs, 118 runs scored and 18 SBs. Berkman has always been a hitter who doesn't strike out much, for a power hitter, as evidenced by his career K rate of 20%, and he can take a walk, as he has a career walk rate of 15%

Last season, Berkman again had a sub-par season leading to his trade to the Yankees. For the season, Berkman hit .248-.368-.413 with 14 HRs, 58 RBIs and 48 runs scored. Even though he slumped with the power numbers, he maintained a terrific eye at the plate, striking out at a 21% clip and walking in 16% of his at bats.

That brings us to this season, where, like I said earlier, I had written him off. I laughed when I heard that the Cardinals had signed him to play right field, but Berkman is getting the last laugh so far. He is hitting .410-.467-.795 with 8 HRs, 22 RBIs and 22 runs scored. His .406 BABIP will certainly come down, and bring with it his batting average and power numbers. In his 83 at bats, he is striking out at a 14% rate and walking at a 10% rate, down from his career averages in both, but when you are hitting like he is, you tend to not look at too many pitches.

The question for fantasy owners is, can he keep this up? I am going to say yes, because for some reason, Cardinals manager Tony Larussa gets the best out of his players every year. He tends to give beaten down hitters and pitchers alike a second chance, and they usually surprise. That and Lance Berkman is a professional and is answering his critics in a big way so far in 2011.