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Brian Walton's news and commentary on the St. Louis Cardinals (TM) and their minor league system

Where would the 2011 Cardinals be without Berkman?

Here’s a thought.

If Lance Berkman did not have even one more plate appearance for the remainder of the 2011 season, would he still win the National League Comeback Player of the Year Award?

I think he easily could in what has to be one of the most remarkable returns to form of any player in recent memory.

Though the Cardinals lost again to Arizona Friday night, Berkman did his best, launching his league-leading 24th home run of the season. From a single-season perspective, the switch-hitter is among the hottest-home run hitting players in team history.

Most home runs through first 90 team games of the season, St. Louis Cardinals

Rk Player Year HR
1 Mark McGwire 1998 40
2 Albert Pujols 2009 32
T3 Albert Pujols 2006 31
T3 Mark McGwire 1999 31
5 Mark McGwire 2000 30
6 Johnny Mize 1940 29
7 Jack Clark 1987 28
T8 Jim Edmonds 2003 27
T8 Stan Musial 1954 27
T10 Albert Pujols 2003 26
T10 Rogers Hornsby 1922 26
T10 Jim Edmonds 2000 26
T10 Dick Allen 1970 26
14 Rogers Hornsby 1925 25
T15 Albert Pujols 2004 24
T15 Lance Berkman 2011 24

(Table provided by researcher Tom Orf.)

From a career view, Berkman’s 351st long ball puts him 81st on the all-time home run list and third among all switch hitters in MLB history. His Tuesday home run was measured at 452 feet, the longest at Busch Stadium III since its 2006 opening.

Obviously, Berkman has been very good for a long time, but many suspected the 35-year-old was washed up after a terrible 2010 season that saw him traded away from his only home as a professional, Houston. He did even poorer with the New York Yankees, who did not want him back for 2011. Neither did the Astros.

With 24 home runs and 63 RBI in his 80 games played, Berkman has already surpassed his entire 2010 totals of 14 and 58, respectively. He will also soon lap his 2009 full-season Houston totals of 25 and 80.

With St. Louis, Berkman has not only been recognized locally, but nationally as well. Fans voted him into a starting berth in this coming Tuesday’s All-Star Game, his sixth appearance and third career start.

The honor is not a legacy nod to a fading hero; it is most deserving.

In addition to having the most home runs in the National League, Berkman ranks among the league leaders in RBI (63-fourth), walks (51-third), slugging (.608-first) and on-base percentage (.402-fourth).

It is an overused phrase in sports, but is so appropriate in this case, I will use it anyway.

Where would the 2011 Cardinals be without Berkman?

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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58 Responses to “Where would the 2011 Cardinals be without Berkman?”

  1. JumboShrimp says:

    Berkman has not only been effective at the plate, he has looked good. His bat seems quick to the ball. He is not hitting these homers by accident. He seems locked on.
    Berkman has helped take pressure and some of the spot light off Pujols.
    Berkman also illustrates how Pujols can have big years ahead, too. If Lance is not washed up at 35, there is no reason to assume Albert is going to be washed up at 31 or however old he is.
    I don’t know what was wrong with Berkman in 2010. He had a down year, by his high standards. This year Lance has moved to the OF, which could be hard for him because he is too slow, yet he has still bounced back in a huge way at the plate. Very interesting.

    • Brian Walton says:

      I admit I did not see it coming. Even in spring training, his bat looked slow.

      • JumboShrimp says:

        Berkman did have an off-year in 2010, so that would be concerning for 2011. That is not unreasonable.
        But from having to pitch to him so many times, TLR knows Berkman is one of the best hitters of his era. So the Cards gambled Berkman could rebound in 2011 and the gamble worked out for them.

        • Kansasbirdman says:

          Another thing is that he seems like a stand-up guy, not showy, and a good presence for the younger guys on the squad, with their good play this year I think he has been a factor there as well. Pure speculation as I don’t have the investigative resouces to confirm that.

    • CariocaCardinal says:

      I expected Berkman to be good (though not nearly this good). what I didn’t expect was him to stay healthy.

  2. crdswmn says:

    I think most people have been surprised by Berkman this year. If he doesn’t win Comeback Player of the Year, there is no justice.

    My inaugural post at Redbird Rants:

  3. JumboShrimp says:

    Matt Holliday too is having a great season so far. He lost games to appendicitis and a leg injury, though is batting for a high average with power.
    Holliday, Berkman, and Pujols are all line driver hitters who do not strike out a lot, given their pop. Its not a coincidence the Cards added Holliday and Berkman, since they suit the hitting approach of the franchise.

  4. JumboShrimp says:

    Among 30 teams, the Cards are 4th in OPS (hitting), whereas 19th in pitching (team ERA). We are presently tied with the Pirates, who are relatively low in hitting, better so far at pitching.

    Pitching is the area for improvement, the rest of the way. We have gotten a bit of help recently from Lynn, Dickson, Walters. Little Sanchez is on a rehab assignment and may return. We have stockpiled Mahay and Boyer at AAA, which is smart. They may become needed.
    Westbrook tends to be better in the back half of seasons, so he could be one source of improvement.
    Franklin is out of the picture. Tallet stashed safely on the D. Batista gone too.
    It is unlikely Mo can add a strong starting pitcher, so making better use of the bullpen and taking some pressure off starting pitchers may make sense.

  5. blingboy says:

    1. Ryan Theriot (R) SS
    2. David Freese (R) 3B
    3. Albert Pujols (R) 1B
    4. Matt Holliday (R) LF
    5. Lance Berkman (S) RF
    6. Colby Rasmus (L) CF
    7. Yadier Molina (R) C
    8. Chris Carpenter (R) P
    9. Skip Schumaker (L) 2B

  6. crdswmn says:

    Colby is going to have to make up his mind to play better. If he doesn’t, then I am on the RC bandwagon to trade him. My tongue is practically numb now from biting it to avoid replying to the all the anti-Colby ugliness.

    • Brian Walton says:

      It is one thing to have a batting slump, but this fielding slump may put Rasmus on the bench. Jay has less talent, but rarely embarrasses himself in the field.

      • crdswmn says:

        Brian, I just don’t know that anything is going to work at this point. RC says he can play better CF but he doesn’t show it. Either he doesn’t have the ability or he chooses not to play to that ability. If it is the latter then he has to change it or trading him may be the only option. Put someone out there who chooses to play his best.

  7. blingboy says:

    Colby had been sitting out a few Carp starts after a couple bush league defensive lapses. Somebody probably convinced him to relent.

  8. Brian Walton says:

    Wonder how Jumbo liked that GIDP started by Theriot, swinging on the first pitch with the bases loaded.

  9. JumboShrimp says:

    That was a game the Cards needed, after several close losses at home. A must win and they got it done.

  10. JumboShrimp says:

    The Cards are pretty well positioned for the second half:
    Three great hitters (Albert, Matt, and Lance)
    Salas has been fantastic. Motte and Boggs helpful.
    Jon Jay has been very good. Molina is having an All star season. Rasmus is helpful.
    Skip, Freese, and Punto missed playing time, but are back.
    Descalso has been a useful role player.
    Theriot has been a decent leadoff hitter.
    Up from Cruz, Lynn, Walters, Dickson have shown they may be able to help.

    We could use improvement from Westbrook. It would be helpful to get Sanchez back. Also Allen Craig.
    Mo finally got rid of Franklin, a gain by subtraction.
    TLR is having a good season thinking of Descalso for SS and Craig for 2B.

  11. T8Ball says:

    A vs. Lefty lineup for sure, and present for Cruz after his walkoff:

    Theriot SS
    Cruz RF
    Pujols 1B
    Holliday LF
    Freese 1B
    Molina C
    Punto 2B
    Jay CF
    Jaime P

    Back to the pitcher in the 9th spot.

  12. JumboShrimp says:

    The next big issue is whether the Cards can land help via a late July trade. Mo will definitely be looking for a deal or two. The team will want to send a signal to both Albert and to its fan base that it add help for a pennant race. In 2010, we added Jake Westbrook in a 3 team deal. In 2009, we added Matt Holiday and Mark DeRosa for propects and now ML regulars Brett Wallace, Mortensen, and Chris Perez. Mo would prefer not to fiddle around just to say he made a deal, but to add an impact player.
    This will not be easy, however. He will have to kick the tires on a lot of possibilities, to try to find an acceptable deal.
    TLR would probably most like an established starting pitcher like last summer. If one is not available for the right price in prospects, then an effective reliever, preferably a lefty. If the right guy were made available, we could use a SS or 2B or 3B. Plenty of ways to improve the 2011 Cards.

    • T8Ball says:

      Middle Relief, can the person warm up quick, a la Jason Motte? Can the reliever handle inherited runners? Can they get Lefties and Righties out at a decent clip? Do they require long layoffs after pitching 15-20 in a game?

      That’s what I’d look for. Now I just describe something impossible, lol. But one can HOPE right? YES WE CAN

  13. crdswmn says:

    Jaime hasn’t looked right to me lately.

  14. WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

    “But the manager also noted that any outside help should have to take credit for the results.”

    Read more:

    The conflict heightens………………. battle lines are being negotiated………… Some here should be able to read between the lines here……………. Good luck RC……..and heads up………… thats Tony yelling across to Mo…….. Brave Heart style…………

  15. Leebo says:

    No outs runner on second, And Molina runs into an out at 3rd. That is not good baseball. Is it?

  16. WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

    6 innings…………..90 pitches………….. Tony makes a statement…………… in retribution?

  17. WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

    AP goes up…………. first thing I notice is his bat angle……back to the usual…….. goes after the first pitch………. there appeared to be no weight shift..left foot remaining down it appeared…… undercuts a bit (pathway to the ball had corrections) and his result reflects the bad swing……..

  18. Bw52 says:

    Maybe the manager decided 90 pitches on a hot day was enough.No hidden agenda or motive other than trying to win the game.

  19. WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

    Punto is such a fine infielder………….. it creates such momentum when there is a display of virtuosity like that ………..

  20. Leebo says:

    Cordero just blew another save. Winning run is on second for Brewers with one.

  21. Leebo says:

    Listening to post game Tony TV. When asked about Salas, he stated they look to improve the club, but until then they go with what they’ve got. Did I hear that right? Sounds like Tony wants more Heath Bell.

  22. crdswmn says:

    Well I missed it, but Colby apparently got the Brendan Ryan treatment by TLR on the radio today. Supposed to be a story about it in the PD tomorrow. Strauss is floating the trade idea on Twitter.

    • Brian Walton says:

      No need to wait. Listen to TLR’s words yourself at KMOX. Compare to what you’ll read.

      Sorry about that. KMOX has the audio mislabeled. I found the “Daddy’s Little Goalie” interview, but TLR is not there either.

      • T8Ball says:

        They are talking about Girl’s Lacrosse on that link, Brian.

      • T8Ball says:

        Sounded like a good book, but not TLR, lol

      • crdswmn says:

        Wasn’t TLR. Anyway, I always take everything I read in the PD with a grain of salt, so I won’t be drawing any conclusions. I heard from another source that TLR was perturbed that Colby was getting hitting instruction outside the Cardinals staff. Nothing new there. Whatever else he said I am sure I will find out eventually.

        • JumboShrimp says:

          One of the strength’s of this team is two good hitting CFs in Rasmus and Jay. CF is an important position. Its valuable to have depth. If you trade one, the other guy could get hurt the next day, and then we would have a hole in CF. Chances are we will not trade Rasmus. However, if we do trade him, it would only be to get a good player in return.
          Chambers can use another 500 at bats at Memphis in 2012. If he continues to develop, he could provide a replacement for Jay or Rasmus, so its possible one of them could be traded after the 2012 season.

  23. T8Ball says:

    Cruz did decent in RF, nice Catch also.

    Rounding out to being a rather Versatile player, though with a small sample size. Can’t hurt to being decent at 4-6 positions in the field.

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