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.




Print This Post





60 Responses to “Berkman Joins The Cardinals”

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
  1. Rui says:

    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

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Ronald says:

      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

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Hugo says:

        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.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Austin says:

        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?

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  2. 200tang says:

    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.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  3. Dan Greer says:

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

    As in, he can’t throw righthanded?

    +23 Vote -1 Vote +1

  4. Ryan says:

    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.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  5. psychUMP says:

    Thank you for the thinly veiled Monty Python reference!

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  6. joe says:

    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.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  7. Cardinals645 says:

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

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  8. CircleChange11 says:

    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.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Brian Stansberry says:

      Joe Mather is an Atlanta Brave.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • CircleChange11 says:

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

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Dick says:

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

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • CircleChange11 says:

        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.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • CircleChange11 says:

        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.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Dick says:

        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.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • CircleChange11 says:

        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.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • CircleChange11 says:

        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.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

    • vivaelpujols says:

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

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • CircleChange11 says:

        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*

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • WY says:

        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.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • CircleChange11 says:

        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*

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • vivaelpujols says:

        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.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • CircleChange11 says:

        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?

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • vivaelpujols says:

        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,

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • CircleChange11 says:

        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.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

    • BX says:

      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.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • WY says:

        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).

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  9. JGH says:

    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.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • philosofool says:

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

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • fourstick says:

        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.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  10. JGH says:

    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…..

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  11. Peter Gammons says:

    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.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  12. danny tanner says:

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

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Austin says:

      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.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  13. pdave says:

    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.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  14. MG says:

    ‘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.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  15. Jeff says:

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

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Alireza says:

      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.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  16. Anthony says:

    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.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>