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Entries in Lance Berkman (5)

Friday
Jul052013

Big Puma Passive to a Fault

The Texas Rangers recently inked Manny Ramirez to a minor league contract, hoping he still has some modicum of the hitting prowess that made him a 12-time All-Star selection. Manny's career credentials are unquestioned -- he has 555 career home runs, 14th on the all-time list, and his 154 OPS+ ties him with Frank Robinson for 15th-best in MLB history. But let's be honest -- no one, Jon Daniels included, knows what to expect from Manny. He's 41, hasn't played a big league game since April of 2011 and slugged .349 last season for the Sacramento Rivers Cats, the Triple-A affiliate of the Oakland A's.

One major reason why the Rangers are willing to see whether Manny's big numbers this season with Taiwan's EDA Rhinos translate to the bigs is the decline of another Hall of Fame-caliber hitter, Lance Berkman. Texas signed Berkman over the winter to a one-year, $11 million deal with a club option for 2014, thinking the 37-year-old could take and rake while resting his aching body as the Rangers' DH.

Unfortunately, Berkman isn't doing much raking. He has just six home runs and a 101 OPS+, and his right knee (surgically repaired four times during his career) is barking. In addition to his creaky knee, it looks like Berkman's overly patient approach could be hurting him.

Big Puma has shown otherworldly strike-zone judgment during his career, and he's still doing a good job of laying off pitches thrown off the plate -- his chase rate is 17.6%, seventh-lowest among MLB hitters and far below the 27% average. But Berkman's judgment on pitches in the zone has taken a turn for the worse. Check out his swing rate against in-zone pitches over the 2011-12 seasons, and then in 2013.

Berkman's swing rate by pitch location vs. in-zone pitches, 2011-12

 

Berkman's swing rate by pitch location vs. in-zone pitches, 2013

In 2011-12, Berkman took at cut at about 73% of pitches thrown over the plate. For comparison's sake, the MLB average is about 65%. This season, Berkman is swinging at just 62% of in-zone pitches. The trend is even more pronounced against fastballs -- Berkman swung at 70% of in-zone heat in 2011-12, but just 56% in 2013.

With Berkman keeping the bat on his shoulder so often, he has fallen behind in the count far more often this year (40% of his plate appearances) than he did with the Cardinals the previous two years (33%). Maybe he's looking for pitches in a particular spot, unsure that he can still do damage on some high-velocity, in-zone pitches that he used to crush. In any event, don't be surprised if the Rangers act fast should Ramirez rake in the minors and Berkman continue to take so often.

Wednesday
Jan162013

Hitting #3 makes the world go 'round

New Rangers DH Lance Berkman said he’s comfortable moving back to the No. 3 spot in the lineup, “It’s an interesting spot. It makes the world go ’round. It takes a different skill set to hit there than in some other spots” according to a blog report from Evan Grant of the Dallas News. Manager Ron Washington said earlier this week he expects Berkman will hit third in the Rangers’ lineup, replacing Josh Hamilton. “It’s definitely the spot in the lineup where you want your best hitter,” Berkman said.

Nine to Know

To prove Berkman's point, here are the top 2012 #3 hitters in the lineup
Rk Player Split G HR GS RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1 Miguel Cabrera Batting 3rd 161 44 161 139 66 98 .330 .393 .606 .999
2 Josh Hamilton Batting 3rd 143 42 143 127 58 162 .284 .352 .575 .927
3 Ryan Braun Batting 3rd 153 41 153 112 63 128 .320 .392 .596 .988
4 Adam Dunn Batting 3rd 146 39 145 90 102 220 .200 .330 .460 .790
5 Andrew McCutchen Batting 3rd 156 31 156 96 70 132 .328 .400 .554 .954
6 Albert Pujols Batting 3rd 154 30 154 105 52 76 .285 .343 .516 .859
7 Chase Headley Batting 3rd 141 29 141 105 78 141 .280 .373 .499 .872
8 Jose Bautista Batting 3rd 92 27 92 65 59 63 .241 .358 .527 .886
9 Matt Holliday Batting 3rd 154 27 154 102 75 130 .297 .381 .500 .881
10 Josh Reddick Batting 3rd 133 27 133 76 50 141 .241 .307 .460 .766
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used Generated 1/15/2013.
 
Wednesday
Jan092013

Best DH Seasons For Greybeards

Can Lance Berkman, 37, make like Edgar Martinez and Frank Thomas by raking as a greybeard DH?Since the Yankees' Ron Blomberg stepped to the plate as Major League Baseball's first designated hitter on April 6, 1973, the DH has been a saving grace for slow-footed or injury-prone sluggers looking to prolong their careers. Case in point: Lance Berkman, who recently signed a one-year, $11 million deal with the Texas Rangers. "Big Puma" was once nimble enough to patrol center field, making circus catches on Tal's Hill. But these days, the 37-year-old's brittle knees would make his still-potent bat irrelevant if he had to cover ground in the field.

The Rangers hope that Berkman can stay healthy and at least partially make up for the loss of Josh Hamilton. It's not a totally crazy notion, considering Berkman's OPS+ over the past three seasons (139) is close to that of the Angels' latest free agent mercenary (146). If Berkman's bat remains that dangerous, he'll join an elite list of greybeard DHs. Courtesy of Baseball-Reference's Play Index Tool, here are the highest OPS+ totals posted by DHs at age 37 or older (minimum 400 plate appearances):

RkPlayerOPS+PAYearAgeTm
1 Edgar Martinez 160 581 2001 38 SEA
2 Edgar Martinez 158 665 2000 37 SEA
3 Frank Robinson 151 630 1973 37 CAL
4 Edgar Martinez 141 603 2003 40 SEA
5 Frank Robinson 141 579 1974 38 TOT
6 Frank Thomas 140 559 2006 38 OAK
7 Edgar Martinez 139 407 2002 39 SEA
8 Ellis Burks 139 570 2002 37 CLE
9 Paul Molitor 138 516 1994 37 TOR
10 Dave Winfield 138 670 1992 40 TOR
11 Rico Carty 138 593 1978 38 TOT
12 Harold Baines 136 486 1999 40 TOT
13 Harold Baines 132 572 1996 37 CHW
14 Brian Downing 132 476 1991 40 TEX
15 Chili Davis 131 567 1997 37 KCR
16 Eddie Murray 129 480 1995 39 CLE
17 Hal McRae 129 654 1983 37 KCR
18 Brian Downing 128 590 1988 37 CAL
19 Frank Thomas 125 624 2007 39 TOR
20 Jim Thome 124 602 2008 37 CHW