So 2011 is the year if the pitcher in MLB, that’s what everyone is saying. Heck I even made a case for it myself this past week suggesting that the reduction / elimination of steroids is having a big effect on the hitters. Let’s review those first half numbers I pointed out.
Looking back at the first half of this season prior to the All-Star break, there was an average of 8.4 runs per game scored in MLB games this year, the lowest since 1992. MLB games averaged 1.8 HRs per game, the lowest since 1993. MLB players had a combined batting average of .253 on the year, the lowest since 1972 and are only working an average 6.2 walks per game, also the lowest since 1972.
That brings us to Lance Berkman and the remarkable season he’s having at the plate. Berkman clubbed two HRs Saturday as the St. Louis Cardinals pounded the Pittsburgh Pirates 9-1, moving into a tie with the Milwaukee Brewers atop the National League Central, as the Brewers fell to the Giants 4-2 (St. Louis is up one in the loss column). In the highly contested divisional race, the Cards and Brewers are now both one game up on the Pirates and four games up on the Cincinnati Reds. When you consider the facts and juxtapose where Lance Berkman is coming from, what he’s doing against the dominating pitching in the league this season, and also compare him to how the majority of his peers are faring, Berkman’s season to date is nothing short of astonishing.
When the St. Louis Cardinals signed Lance Berkman to a one year, $8 million deal this past December the majority of MLB pundits snickered. You probably did too. Anyone who saw Berkman play last year thought he was done. The Houston Astros certainly did. They didn’t think he was the same guy anymore and they had seen him play his entire career. Through 85 games last year, in 358 ABs Berkman hit .245 with 13 HRs and 45 RBI.
Sure the New York Yankees took a flyer on him, swinging a deal for Big Puma at the MLB Trade Deadline, but they didn’t give up anything to speak of to get him. In fact, the Astros actually paid the Yankees to take him. In exchange for Berkman, the Yankees sent the Astros Triple-A right-handed pitcher Mark Melancon and Jimmy Paredes, an infielder who playing for the Class A Charleston River Dogs. The Yankees also made the Astros pick up some of the tab for Berkman’s salary (imagine that, when was the last time the Yankees has another club team send THEM cash in a deal?) The Astros assumed a portion of Berkman’s remaining salary for 2010 plus the buyout for the rest of his contract. Berkman was in the last year of a six-year, $85 million contract that paid him $14.5 million, and he also had a $15 million club option for 2011 with a $2 million buyout. Of the slightly more than $7.15 million remaining on the contract at the time, the Yankees will paid just $3,150,273, while Houston will paid $4 million.
Berkman didn’t do anything with the Yankees that would make anyone think that he would have a year like he’s having now either. In fact, he did less. With the Yankees, Berkman played in 37 games having 123 Abs, hitting .255 with 1 HR and 17 RBI. In the playoffs last year, in 19 ABs Berkman hit .263 with 1 HR and 4 RBI.
Berkman has been highly durable this season, something that no one could have expected, not even the Cardinals. After Saturday’s game, Lance has now played in 39 straight games for the Cards. Prior to yesterday’s game, Berkman was only hitting .236 over that time, and Berkman did say that he can feel the baseball season in his legs, but he also stated that it is “not something I haven’t felt before. It’s not overwhelming. I just think it’s the nature of our sport.” What’s amazing here is that even as the dog-days of summer drain on the veteran switch hitter, while his batting average has suffered, his production in the batter’s box has not. During that stretch, Berkman has 14 home runs and 24 RBI. Berkman is now hitting .290 with 27 HRs and 69 RBI on the year.
The Cardinals were in New York this past week taking on the Mets and our Scott Engel caught up with Lance Berkman who discussed his surprising rebound this year. Courtesy of RotoExperts.com and Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, You can listed to Scott’s exclusive interviews with Berkman, Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday, Davis Freese, Jamie Garcia, Jon Jay and hitting coach Mark McGwire HERE.
Around the Horn
The Kansas City Royals won their 4th game in a row (not a type-o) as Eric Hosmer drilled a game-winning double in the 10th inning to give the Royals a 5-4 walk-off victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on a hot Saturday night at Kauffman Stadium.
The Royals who are universally perceived to have the best prospects in baseball are starting to bring their kids up one by one. With Alex Gordon finally put things together at the major league level, if the Royals can start successfully working in some of their pitching prospects they are going to be a fun team to watch over the next few years.
2011 MLB Hall of Fame Inductions
The 2011 MLB Hall of Fame induction ceremony will be held Today at 1:30pm ET. Roberto Alomar, Bert Blyleven and Pat Gillick make up the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s Class of 2011. MLB.com has some great coverage of the event starting at 11:30am ET. The speeches by the inductees are usually worth watching as MLB Hall of Fame speeches are some of the noteworthy speeches you’ll ever hear.
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