Berkman Joins The Cardinals

In a pairing that appears most unusual, Lance Berkman will play with the St. Louis Cardinals during the 2011 season.

Berkman last played a non-first base defensive position in 2007 and the last time he manned an outfield position for the majority of a season was 2004. The answer to those trivia questions will become more current next season as Albert Pujols moves for no man. Berkman lacks the skills to play the other infield positions and with Matt Holliday and Colby Rasmus guarding left and center fields, it appears right field is the default location for the man nicknamed Fat Elvis.

After trading Ryan Ludwick to the Padres, the Cardinals mostly used John Jay and Allen Craig in right. Jay (26 in March) hit .300/.359/.422 while receiving enough support in the Fans Scouting Report to peg him as the Cardinals’ best defensive outfielder. Craig (27 in July) did not fare as well offensively (.246/.298/.412) or defensively (FSR had him at -2 runs). Berkman may celebrate turning 35 in February, but over the last three seasons he’s hit .281/.398/.504; and even last year managed a collective line of .248/.368/.413 while suffering through the lowest batting average on balls in play and home run per fly ball ratio of his career.

At Berkman’s age, there is no guarantee he’ll be able to regain the power that made him a lock to hit 20-plus homers a season (as he did in each of his 10 full seasons before 2010). An added obstacle is an unexpected nuisance. Switch hitters usually show little in the way of platoon splits, but not Berkman. He may as well give up batting as a right-handed hitter, because it is not working out for him lately (2010-2008 wOBA of .236, .305, and .352). The other side of the plate proves more kind to Berkman (.372, .416, and .441).

The severity of such a complication relies on the manager’s cleverness in handling the batter. If Tony LaRussa shows his wit by pinch hitting a right-handed compliment into the lineup in Berkman’s place against a late inning lefty here, and giving Berkman an off-day against an elite lefty there, then some of the grime is removed from the situation. If nothing else, LaRussa could at least demote Berkman lower in the order against worthwhile lefties.

The great unknown with Berkman is his defense in the outfield. The Fans Scouting Report gave him low markings on foot speed, first step, arm strength, and arm accuracy. Those ratings occurred while he played first base, but the attributes represent the most necessary skills to provide defensive value in the outfield. One aspect the fans voted Berkman high in was instincts. Now, definitions of instincts may vary across the board, but at least Berkman has some experience in the outfield too, even playing center (which should come in handy once Rasmus is benched for inauspicious lengths of time).

Another point in Berkman’s defensive favor is his teammates. No team can truly hide an outfielder, but the Cardinals are the best equipped to marginalize outfield defense. St. Louis’ collection of outfielders saw the third fewest balls in zone last season and the second fewest in 2009 thanks to groundball heavy staffs. Berkman will still be required to field a good number of balls, but with any luck his defensive value will be minimized by good pitching and overshadowed by good hitting.

The Cardinals are paying him for 1.6 wins (if the going rate is $5 million per win) and Berkman has reached 2 in every full season of his career. His transition will be padded with a five-run bonus (moving from first to right has some perks). Ultimately, though, he should be fine as long as he hits.



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Rui
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Rui
5 years 8 months ago

Holliday has stated that he’s willing to move to RF if the Cards acquire an impact bat for LF

Though I’m not completely convinced that that’s the best configuration

Ronald
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Ronald
5 years 8 months ago

Yeah Berkman’s gonna play RF, per Mo.

“When you look at what we were trying to accomplish this offseason, one of the things we wanted to touch on was our offense…we realized that maybe the best way to address this would be looking at right-field and giving a hard look at Lance Berkman.”

http://www.foxsportsmidwest.com/12/04/10/Cardinals-sign-Lance-Berkman/landing.html?blockID=366404&feedID=3708

Hugo
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Hugo
5 years 8 months ago

Just because Mo said that Berkman was the answer to the RF situation doesn’t mean he will play RF. The answer could still be Berkman in LF and Holiday in RF which I think I would prefer.

I am already drooling over the possibilities with this lineup now. Theriot, Rasmus, Pujols, Holiday, Berkman, Freese, Molina, Ryan/Schumaker is already a better lineup than what we finished the year with this year. I am just hoping the pitching staff doesn’t have to rely too much on defense because there are some lead gloves in that mix and not enough Gold to make it pretty.

Austin
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Austin
5 years 8 months ago

Anthony Castrovince at mlb.com says that he’s going to be the left fielder, though.

“Berkman is expected to become the club’s regular left fielder, as Matt Holliday has volunteered to move over to right to accommodate him. No matter the exact alignment, Berkman will be an everyday presence in the outfield.”

I’m not really sure who is the better choice for right field. Holliday’s arm seems almost exactly average (48 strength, 51 or 52 accuracy according to the fans, about -0.6 runs/year for the last three years by UZR, and +0.3 runs/year by DRS), which according to R.J.’s article would seem to make him better than Berkman in that regard. But I’m not sure why he calls Berkman’s arm below average by FSR, because a small sample of 20 votes in 2009 gave Berkman 53/60 strength/accuracy. Perhaps I’m wrong in thinking that 50 is actually average on the fan’s scouting scale?

200tang
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200tang
5 years 8 months ago

Considering how bad Dunn was and how much better I think he is on both sides of the ball at this point in their careers, I have a lot of skepticism. Not to mention that Berkman hasn’t played a full season the past 2 years and is now going to be asked to play a position that requires a lot of running. Chance it works out, but I’d bet money he ends up not reaching the 2 WAR mark and even if he fulfills that 1.6 mark, I have a hard time believing Jon wouldn’t be an improvement over a full season and they could have used that money else where. In a vacuum it looks okay, but poor move imo.

Dan Greer
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Dan Greer
5 years 8 months ago

“Berkman lacks the skills to play the other infield positions…”

As in, he can’t throw righthanded?

Alireza
Guest
5 years 8 months ago

I was going to say – Berkman would probably have made an excellent 3B given his skillset, if he was right-handed.

Lance W
Member
5 years 8 months ago

Damn. Beat me to it.

Ryan
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Ryan
5 years 8 months ago

I think this is a good deal. Jon Jay playing a full season isn’t an experiment that should be endured during one of Pujols’s prime years.

psychUMP
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psychUMP
5 years 8 months ago

Thank you for the thinly veiled Monty Python reference!

chuckb
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chuckb
5 years 8 months ago

I agree! Hopefully Berkman only endures flesh wounds this year!

joe
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joe
5 years 8 months ago

I had heard the Cards were going to flip Pujols to the RedSox for “top” prospects (Bowden, Doubront, Anderson, or maybe Tazawa… these are the prospects not named Iglesias that the press will be pumping up right?)

Berkman seems like an ideal solution to replace Pujols until Anderson and his 4+ WAR ceiling is ready.

Ronald
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Ronald
5 years 8 months ago

Sounds like it came from a really legitimate source.

stlfan
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stlfan
5 years 8 months ago

Was this “really legitimate source” Buster Olney?

phoenix
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phoenix
5 years 8 months ago

um… the cards flipping pujols??? and replacing him with berkman??? that does not sound like something any team in baseball would do…

Cheese Whiz
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Cheese Whiz
5 years 8 months ago

This is clearly a joke, and after reading the reactions to the AGon trade it made me chuckle a little.

JGH
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JGH
5 years 8 months ago

Except the package the Pads received was actually really good, and is easily as good as the Package the Jays received for Halladay.

Rob
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Rob
5 years 8 months ago

Talk about damning with faint praise

Cardinals645
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Cardinals645
5 years 8 months ago

Rumor is the Red Sox are looking to add an All-Star 1B via trade from an NL team…

Cardinals645
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Cardinals645
5 years 8 months ago

This is supposed to be a reply to Ronald or Joe

B N
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B N
5 years 8 months ago

Our long term plan is to play an all star 1B at all positions…

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11
5 years 8 months ago

I doubt there’s another team in MLB that is more familiar with with Berkamn (other than HOU), than StL.

Now whether age and injuries have caught up to him, but StL has generally had good pitching and has seen plenty of Berkman, to have an idea of what he can or cannot do.

The “3rd good hitter” has been hit or miss with StL. Ludwick was that guy but struggled at times, All-Star at others. I agree with the poerson that said relying on Jon Jay might not be the best thing to do with the window being as short as it is.

Having Berkamn just face righties really isn’t that big of a deal, given how few good lefty starters there are, perhaps especially in the NL Central. The problem there is instead of seeing Jon jay in those situation we’ll get to see the likes of Joe Mather, Allen Craig, and Nick Stavinoha. Oh boy.

Here’s to hoping Lance Berkman has some “Will Clark” in him. Cardinal fans will get that reference.

Brian Stansberry
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Brian Stansberry
5 years 8 months ago

Joe Mather is an Atlanta Brave.

CircleChange11
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CircleChange11
5 years 8 months ago

I say “likes of” because StL has an endless supply of guys just like him … and Craig … and Stavinoha …

Dick
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Dick
5 years 8 months ago

The initial oversight was an honest mistake. The attempt to save face on the internet is just embarrassing.

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11
5 years 8 months ago

If you’re ripping me because I did not pay attention to Joe Mather going to the Atlanta Braves, I’m fine with that.

Saving face? Again not really concerned about it.

I should have just said, “tired of seeing the Cardinals run replacement level OFs out there”. Don’t know of too many playoof-calber teams that do that, when they have other options.

IMHO, it has more to do with TLR’s love for “grittiness” in his players.

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11
5 years 8 months ago

Since I don’t generally make pointless comments or halfway rants, I was thinking about what my point was, and it’s simple …

Signing Berkman ends the situation of replacement level OF from getting a decent amount of playing time.

With an OF of Holliday/Rasmus/Jay, a replacement level OF is going to get playing time via injury or rest days for a starter. Perhaps as much as 20 games worth of PA’s and PH appearances.

By signing Berkman, and having an OF of Holliday/Rasmus/Berkman, those PA’s go to Jay, who IMO is much better than Stavinoha, Craig, mather or any other “faceless” replacement-level OF the cards would have sent out there.

Berkman is an upgrade over Jay. Jay is an upgrade over replacement level. It’s a good move IMO for those 2 reasons.

No more replacement level OF’s unless there’s multiple injuries, which would likely be the case with most teams.

I think, over a full season, Jay could be “league average”. having a guy like that as your “4th outfielder” is a big deal. Statistically, it’s “2 wins”, which in the NL central could mean everything.

Out of curiosity, I looked up the transaction dates for Mather and Stavinoha … both in November. Unless, there was an article about here or at TT’s blog, I would not have known about it. Not following baseball closely during October and November (after world series, before winter signings). Not that it matters, the point is secondary to the primary line of thinking: “Lance Berkman means the end of replacement level OF’s getting playing time in StL.”

Unfortunately, my lack of attention distracted from the main point.

Dick
Guest
Dick
5 years 8 months ago

I didn’t know about Mather either. Outside of the respective fan bases very few had a reason to care. I just found it amusing that you chose to cover up a venial oversight with an outright lie.

“Saving face? Again not really concerned about it.”

Your several hundred word response says otherwise.

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11
5 years 8 months ago

Your several hundred word response says otherwise.

Not really. That’s pretty much just how I talk. My nickname among other principal’s is “And Another Thing”. Information pours out with very little filter.

But really the names of the actual outfielders was far less important to me than their performance level. It’s very possible that I am, in fact, an ass-clown jagbag … but I hope it’s for a better reason that I did not know of the November transactions of the cardinals lesser players, or the perception that I was trying to cover up my lack of attention. I’m one of the few people that is very aware of their flaws, and believe me there’s some bigger ones.

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11
5 years 8 months ago

Here is my EXACT comment …

“we’ll get to see the likes of Joe Mather, Allen Craig, and Nick Stavinoha. Oh boy.”

I did say the LIKES OF and then mentioned specific names. To me, that signifies a player TYPE and not actual players.

For example, if I say the LIKES of Craig Hodges, Jon Paxson, and Steve Kerr I am referring to a player type that is good at shooting 3’s but can’t play defense, rebound, or basically anything else.

In this particular post/situation, I don’t care about my internet persona or “street cred” … but I do actually care about being called a liar.

Dick
Guest
Dick
5 years 8 months ago

Yikes.

vivaelpujols
Guest
5 years 8 months ago

Mather is a Brave, Stav is DFA’d, and Allen Craig is pretty good.

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11
5 years 8 months ago

Not sure what “pretty good” means.

They’re all basically replacement level IMO.

My frustration covers the use of these guys over the last 2-3 years. Obviously Matt Holliday meant they didn’t play LF in 2010, and Jon Jay pretty much played RF with Ludwick playing there before the trade.

2010 wasn’t the same as 2009 and 2008 in regards to replacement level OFs getting playing time.

If it is really going to be Holliday, Rasmus, Berkman, with jay filling in … that’s good with me.

My frustration (voiced) has to do with 2008-2010, not just 2010.

You guys are ruining a half-assed rant. *big grin*

WY
Guest
WY
5 years 8 months ago

The difference between Craig and Stavinoha is that Craig only played a half season and started to show some promise toward the end. He also has a much better minor-league track record and is at least considered some sort of prospect, which I don’t believe Stavinoha really was. I think Craig will see some time in the OF (and possibly at 3B) in addition to pinch hitting, and I think he’s capable of doing a good job.

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11
5 years 8 months ago

I agree that Craig is likely the better player of the ones I mentioned by name. But, no, I’m not (yet) getting excited about Craig’s “promise”.

If he could be that RHB that mashed lefties … I would be excited about that (ala, Marcus Thames).

But, the best I’ve read of Craig is that he could be “as good as Freese”, and the worst is that his MiLB power numbers could be inflated by park/league factors. I haven’t really seen the debate reach a consensus or clear conclusion.

I have no problem “waiting and seeing”.

Craig can play OF/3B (and 1B by extension), Skip can play OF/2B, Berkman can play OF/1B … that does give StL some depth and versatility, while not relying on Craig and Skip to play a ton of games .

I am excited about Freese, who was better at the plate than I expected, and not as bad in the field as he had the potential to be.

Reportedly StL is looking for SS first, then 2B.

Now, if Craig really can hit at the MLB level, give him the “small glove” and start hitting him grounders at 2B. *wink*

vivaelpujols
Guest
5 years 8 months ago

Craig was a fantastic hitter in the minors and showed good power in his time in the majors. It’s not fair to lump him in with Stavinoha, who is literally the shittiest player in baseball. Craig projects well above replacement level and is a very good 5th outfielder. Jon Jay is also a good player. So was Joe Mather when healthy.

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11
5 years 8 months ago

VEP,

You’re losing me with …

“Craig projects well above replacement level”

and

“is a very good 5th outfielder”

Those don’t seem like 2 statements that one would make about the same player.

Regardless, Craig is being discussed most often as a backup 3B, and I was talking about a 4th OF that would get significant playing time.

I’m fine with Craig as a 5th outfielder. We’ll have the best 5th outfielder in all of baseball. (Half joking) I actually like Allen Craig … nad you’re right, he is better than (or projects better) than replacement level. I just don’t want to see him having decent playing time at a corner OF spot.

He and Freese may be similar players where there’s no dropoff when he plays 3B, but if it’s possible, I’d like to see him move to 2B. It’s not like we were getting great defense there, and a .160+ ISO at 2B would be worth throwing a parade about.

I just don’t want to see him play 30 or so games in the OF. Looking at all the RF’s that had an ISO of .160+ (and wOBA of .340), they all basically needed positive fielding runs to have positive WAR. Upton at 3 WAR, Ludwick at 2 WAR, Garrett Jones at 0 WAR. Which one would you say Craig is most similar to?

vivaelpujols
Guest
5 years 8 months ago

Craig is the fifth outfielder on the Cardinals due to Berkman, Holliday, Rasmus and Jay – his role is not the same thing as his true talent level, which is well above replacement level,

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11
5 years 8 months ago

Fair enough.

I’m not confident we have enough data at the ML level to assess Craig’s true talent level.

Looking through the OF’s that post a .160 or higher ISO, the only way to get a positive WAR, let alone in the 2 to 3 WAR range is to [1] have positiv fielding runs, and/or [2] have a wOBA greater than .340.

If you’re TCQ, that jumps to needing an ISO greater than .300 AND a wOBA over .400 *grin*

I’m looking at guys like Jose Guillen, Garrett Jones, Jason Kubel, and nothing their zeroish WAR … I’m assuming Craig isn’t in the Corey Hart, Justin Upton, Torrii Hunter, or JD Drew class.

If Craig were to play a full season as a starting RF, how many WAR would he be procted to earn?

I would put him much closer to the Garrett Jones group, which performed last year at replacement level.

So, that’s where I’m trying to figure out the “well above replacement level” comment … to me that would be pretty close to “league average” or 2 WAR.

BX
Guest
BX
5 years 8 months ago

Wouldn’t Jon Jay see playing time before any of those guys?

Right now, starting OF unless Mo’s got another trick up his sleeve is Holliday/Rasmus/Berkman. I’d think an injury means Jay starts, and Jay’s definitely passable.

WY
Guest
WY
5 years 8 months ago

Jay or Craig, depending on the position (obviously, Craig can’t play CF) as well as handedness (with Craig being more likely to spell Berkman against a tough lefty than Jay). And as a few other commenters have pointed out, Mather and Stavinoha are both out of the mix. Schumaker could be another occasional OF starter if he doesn’t return as the everyday 2B (and they really do need to upgrade there).

JGH
Guest
JGH
5 years 8 months ago

Berkman wont have that hard of a time reaching 2 WAR this season. If his BABiP goes back towards his career avg. of .318, and his HR/FB comes back up slightly, even to 15%, he easily could be a .280/.380/.480 guy next year. I could see a +20 on O/-10 on D (and around +20 replacement/-7 positional adjustment)–which would equal around 2.3 WAR, or slightly higher. This is a conservative projection imho, since I dont think he will be that bad on D, and could easily be +25 on O next year. He could churn out a .375 wOBA/135 +RC, etc., which would give him around +25 on O, maybe slightly higher. This is a good signing by the cards.A middle of the order, 2 thru 5, with Rasmus-Pujols-Holliday-Berkman is dangerous.

philosofool
Member
Member
philosofool
5 years 8 months ago

Have you seen the park factor on Busch stadium? Berkman’s HR/FB is not going up.

fourstick
Guest
fourstick
5 years 8 months ago

Apparently you’re not looking at all the park factors. Busch III is pretty neutral to left handed hitters. It really punishes right handed hitters, which makes what Pujols has done since 2006 all that more impressive.

Now, it’s not near as good as The Juicebox or Yankee Stadium for hitters, but it shouldn’t be a terrible place for Berkman from the left side. Which is the only side he should be taking at bats from next year anyway. Allen Craig should play as much as humanly possible against left handed pitching, but this won’t happen, because Tony La Russa is our manager.

JGH
Guest
JGH
5 years 8 months ago

I think a reasonable projection would be a 2.5-3 WAR next year for him if his BABiP and HR/FB return somewhat close to career norms…..

fourstick
Guest
fourstick
5 years 8 months ago

AKA: What Ryan Ludwick would have delivered in 2011 for the same price.

Peter Gammons
Guest
Peter Gammons
5 years 8 months ago

Berkman’s and his BB rate will be good if its in front of Pujols in the #2 spot. Alot of good pitches for a guy that has good plate discipline.

danny tanner
Guest
danny tanner
5 years 8 months ago

Does anyone know what lineups have 4 guys with 10% or higher BBrate?

Austin
Guest
Austin
5 years 8 months ago

It isn’t especially rare; last year’s Rays had Pena’s 14.9%, Jaso’s 14.6%, Zobrist’s 14.0%, Upton’s 11.0%, and Longoria’s 10.9%, plus several part-time players like Shoppach, Johnson, and Joyce. Other teams, like the Braves, sometimes ran out lineups with four 10%-walk players. But yeah, the Cardinals have a patient lineup now.

pdave
Guest
pdave
5 years 8 months ago

A Berkman/Craig platoon will be very strong and allow Berkman the needed time off. Expect a .400 OBA in front of Albert against right-handers. Also on days Holiday needs a rest the Cards can field a major league outfield. When Berkman’s not in the lineup he provides strong LH bench strength. He will DH in AL matchups. He can also spell Albert effectively. Excellent trade even considering defensive concerns.

astrostl
Member
astrostl
5 years 8 months ago

WOULD be very strong. Will be? The stated plan is to play Berkman every day, and use Craig as a backup 3B :(

MG
Guest
MG
5 years 8 months ago

‘Fat Elvis’ was a whale at the end of last season. Probably closer to 240-245 than his listed 220. Only way he holds up on those knees (especially his gimpy right knee) over the course of the season in the OF is to get in shape this offseason and lose at at least 15-20 pounds.

This is one guy who it actually matters what kind of shape he shows up for in spring training.

Ryan
Guest
Ryan
5 years 8 months ago
Jason B
Guest
Jason B
5 years 8 months ago

“Best shape of his life!!” *snicker*

Alireza
Guest
5 years 8 months ago

Hey, 212 suggests he might well gain some of his fleetness of foot back.

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11
5 years 8 months ago

More likely, at 212, it suggests that he’ll “gain the weight back”. Just speaking realistically.

Losing weight and keeping it off ain’t all that common, and the “best shape of his life” stories are going to be rampant yet again approaching this spring traiing.

fourstick
Guest
fourstick
5 years 8 months ago

Joe Strauss is clearly referring to his weight on the moon and not what weight he’ll show up at when he reports in the spring.

If he’s down to 212, he clearly ate a tapeworm or caught some flesh eating virus, in which case, he’s probably not in any better shape to play baseball.

Jeff
Guest
5 years 8 months ago

Despite the defense suffering, you can’t blame the cardinals for trying to get an inexpensive bat. They have horrid defense though.

Alireza
Guest
5 years 8 months ago

Berkman is not a bad defender, either in the OF or at 1B. If he is in LF, especially given that the Cards are GB heavy, I don’t see it being an issue.

Anthony
Guest
Anthony
5 years 8 months ago

I just hope Berkman hits well to increase his HoF chances. He needs to have a 3-WAR season to keep his slim chance at the HoF as he’ll certainly need over 400 HR and over 2200 H with these voters and he isn’t close to those as of now and has passed his prime. If he does get over 60 WAR then maybe he’ll be deserving by my standards.

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