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« The Red Sox Should be Concerned about Jon Lester | Main | Do Power Pitchers Get Squeezed? »
Sunday
Jan062013

Lance Berkman: The Anti-Hamilton

Looking to add some punch to their lineup after losing Josh Hamilton to the division-rival Angels, the Rangers have reportedly signed his polar opposite at the plate. Lance Berkman will DH for Texas on a one-year, $10 million deal with a vesting option for the 2014 season, so long as his surgically-repaired right knee checks out. The 37-year-old  switch-hitter was limited to just 32 games last year, but his three-year OPS+ (139) is within shouting distance of Hamilton's (146). That's where the comparison ends, though, as the uber-patient Berkman and hacking Hamilton take far different approaches at the plate.

Take a look at Berkman and Hamilton's swing rates by pitch location since the beginning of the 2010 season. Berkman swung at cookies thrown down the middle and rarely ventured outside of the strike zone. Hamilton, meanwhile, swung at everything from El Paso to Texarkana:

Berkman's swing rate by pitch location, 2010-12

              

Hamilton's swing rate by pitch location, 2010-12

Berkman swung at lots of strikes (69.3% of pitches thrown over the plate, well above the 63.6% major league average) and took would-be balls, chasing just 21.4% of pitches thrown out of the zone (28.1% MLB average). Hamilton offered at a major league-high 81.6% of in-zone pitches over the 2010-12 seasons, but he also jumped at 38.8% of out-of-zone pitches (and was even jumpier last year).

The contrast is even greater when you look at how often the two swing at "non-competitive" pitches, which are those thrown at least 18 inches away from the center of the strike zone. Berkman has swung at such junk pitches 5.6% of the time, far below the 9.1% MLB average. Hamilton, meanwhile, has gone after such offerings 14.1% of the time.

How's that for irony: Having lost their star hacker to L.A., Texas' playoff hopes may now hinge on the play of their new anti-Hamilton. If Berkman can remain healthy and come anywhere near replicating Hamilton's production in 2013, the Rangers will be thrilled.

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