Monday, May 21, 2012

Looking Back: How Good Was Lance Berkman?

Ever wonder why Lance Berkman is called "The Big Puma" ?
Before the 2006 season started, in an interview with a local Houston sports radio station, Lance joked "I'm more like a puma so I'm not sure why people call me Fat Elvis."  Hosts, John Granato and Lance Zierlein, ran with the moniker and Houston fans and media latched onto "The Big Puma."
It has been confirmed that Lance Berkman has a Torn ACL and will miss the remainder of the season and will most likely end the Big Puma's career.  It has been a terrible year for ACL injuries in all sports and this is the second one in the MLB that could be career ending (see Mariano Rivera).

On June 3, 1997, the Houston Astros drafted Lance Berkman in the 1st round, 16th overall.  He signed the next day and played for just that franchise until July 31, 2010 when he was traded to the Yankees for Mark Melancon and Jimmy Paredes.  In between  those seasons, Lance Berkman compiled TONS of stats and appeared in 5 All-Star Games.

He made his debut in 1999 and saw action in 34 games compiling 93 at bats.  He hit just .237 that season and had just a .387 slugging percentage.  He would never bat under .270 or slug under .500 until the 2010 season in which he was traded.

It was not until the 2001 season that Berkman really made a name for himself.  He hit 55 doubles that season to go along with 34 home runs, and 5 triples on his way to 126 RBI, while hitting .331.  He finished 5th in MVP voting that season. 

From 2002-2009 "Fat Elvis" went on to average 157 hits, 34 doubles, 31 home runs, 104 RBI and 96 runs.  He finished in the top 5 MVP voting 3 more times(2002, 2006, 2008) and appeared in 4 more All Star games.

As an Astro, Berkman helped lead the team to 5 different playoff appearances, one time making it all the way to the World Series, before losing to the Chicago White Sox.  He did appear in the playoffs both years he was not wearing a 'Stros uni, going 5-16 as a Yankee and 20-64 as a Cardinal last year, in route to his first and most likely only World Series Championship.  He hit .423 in the Series and drove in 5 runs in the 7 game set.  For his career, Berkman was a .317 postseason hitter.

2010 would be Berkman's worst season of his career.  He finished batting just .248 and hit just 14 HRs and drove in just 58 runs.  Even with all those struggles, St. Louis remembered the Berkman that hit .313 for his career against them.  That same Berkman that hit 39 HRs and drove in 118 runs over 154 games against the Division rival.  And Berkman rewarded them big time hitting .301 for the season and belting 31 long balls and driving in 94 runs, all while playing RF and staying healthy enough to play 145 games, en route tow inning the Comeback Player of the Year award.  Oh yeah, they also won the World Series.

It is sad to have another great career end the way Berkman's could potentially be over, but hopefully he is able to sign a contract with the Astros, and retire at Minute Maid Park and receive the standing ovation he deserves.

Take a look at Lance Berkman's Player Page over at Baseball Refernce and check out where he ranks amongst active hitters.

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