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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Berkman announces retirement

to pursue slaw enforcement.

Lance Berkman’s has decided to retire, he told MLB.com Wednesday afternoon.

“It doesn’t make sense to play in the physical condition I’m in,” he said.

He has had continuing problems with his right knee, the same injury that limited him to 73 games for the Rangers last season.

“I’m not going to keep trying to run out there for the heck of it,” he said.

During his 15-year career, he made the National League All-Star Team six times and was a member of five playoff teams, including the 2011 Cardinals, who won the World Series.

He had toyed with the idea of attempting to play a 16th season, but came to the conclusion that his 37-year-old body wouldn’t allow him to.

“I think I’m actually glad about it,” he said. “I’m excited about the next chapter in my life. I’m looking forward to spending more time with my family, and at some point, I’ll definitely coach somewhere.”

His legacy will be that he was one of the best offensive players in the game for a long stretch of his career. During his first 12 seasons, including 10-plus with the Astros, he averaged 30 home runs, 34 doubles, 95 walks and had a .410 on-base percentage and a .958 on-base-plus-slugging.

His .9429 OPS is the 26th-highest in history among players with at least 500 games. It’s higher even than Hall of Famers Willie Mays and Hank Aaron.

Repoz Posted: January 29, 2014 at 08:06 PM | 20 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: astros

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   1. Rants Mulliniks Posted: January 29, 2014 at 08:28 PM (#4648325)
Berkman was always one of my favourite players, especially when he was a CF who hit like a 1B.
   2. Alex meets the threshold for granular review Posted: January 29, 2014 at 08:45 PM (#4648337)
Berkman was my favorite non-Cardinal almost his entire career. And then he became a Cardinal, and had that huge Game 6 in 2011 (overshadowed by Freese going bananas in the clutchiest way possible) to save our asses and finally get himself a ring. Great hitter, and a great interview as well.
   3. zonk Posted: January 29, 2014 at 09:10 PM (#4648348)
A bit sad that he's not a HoFer -- a bit more health here and there, an earlier start to being a regular -- I think he makes it... but for a guy that spent so much time at 1B/DH -- less than 2000 hits, less than 400 HRs, only 50 WAR -- he probably doesn't have a chance and probably shouldn't. He's a noticeably but not significantly better player than Jim Rice, for instance, and probably a decent number of other HoFers... but that's just not enough to get him in, even in my very large hall book.
   4. eddieot Posted: January 29, 2014 at 09:14 PM (#4648354)
HOF nicknames anyway. I prefer "Fat Elvis" but "Big Puma" is teh awesome.
   5. Joyful Calculus Instructor Posted: January 29, 2014 at 09:17 PM (#4648356)
"Decided to retire" being a nice way of saying "couldn't get a contract offer."
   6. AROM Posted: January 29, 2014 at 09:54 PM (#4648366)
1B, yeah, but Berkman didn't DH much at all. Just the end of that one Yankee season, last year's partial season, and a few inter league games each year.
   7. Astroenteritis Posted: January 29, 2014 at 10:27 PM (#4648381)
It was a pleasure to watch Berkman play. Just an excellent player; one of the better switch-hitters to play the game. Glad he got a ring with the Cards, too. Wish him all the best. The memory that sticks with me is the grand slam he hit late in what turned out to be the epic playoff game against Atlanta in 2005.
   8. Infinite Joost (Voxter) Posted: January 29, 2014 at 10:51 PM (#4648389)
Ugliest swing I ever saw on a great hitter. Opened up that front foot but good, whipped his chunky butt along behind it, yanked the bat through the zone. Looked terrible. Early in his career I was convinced that pitchers were going to figure him out and expose massive holes in his swing. Never did.
   9. zonk Posted: January 29, 2014 at 11:18 PM (#4648408)
Ugliest swing I ever saw on a great hitter. Opened up that front foot but good, whipped his chunky butt along behind it, yanked the bat through the zone. Looked terrible. Early in his career I was convinced that pitchers were going to figure him out and expose massive holes in his swing. Never did.


For a guy that was really more of a pull hitter (from both sides and going from memory), I think it was because his swing was incredibly quick. He didn't have that long, gaping swing you'd normally associate with a pull hitter. He was incredibly good at staying back on the ball and holding that swing the last fraction of second - both leading to his walk totals, but also meaning he was really good on identifying and getting a pitch he could drive. If anything, I think yanking the bat through the zone undersells him, he'd whip it through the zone, lightning quick. To my novice eye, that's what made him such a great hitter - and why he was so successful in never getting 'figured out'... You had to work him and make an entire ABs worth of good pitches. If you didn't, he'd get the one he knew he could whack and pounce on it. Of the power hitters I've seen in lifetime, I think he had one of the quickest swings I ever saw - I don't know that I'd call it a particularly short stroke, just an incredibly fast swing without sacrificing extension and weight shift (in fact, emphasizing them, as you said with his tendency to open up wide).
   10. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: January 29, 2014 at 11:23 PM (#4648410)
“It doesn’t make sense to play in the physical condition I’m in,” he said.


Didn't stop you for the first 15 years.
   11. Walt Davis Posted: January 30, 2014 at 12:07 AM (#4648428)
All-time career Rbat for switch-hitters:

Mantle 801 (crikey)
Chipper 558
Berkman 422
Murray 388
Rose 367
Singleton 327
R Smith 310
Bernie 297
Raines 290
Beltran 249

So 3rd greatest switch-hitter. However, by oWAR, he drops to 11th in a virtual tie with Simmons.

Berkman vs. Murray is an interesting case of peak vs. durability. Murray has 68 WAR but just 27 WAA while Berkman has 28 WAA but just 52 WAR. The difference is primarily Murray's age 33-41 seasons which were 5000 PA for 12 WAR (-4 WAA), with 5 of those 12 WAR coming in his very good age-34 season. Murray wasn't adding a lot of value but did add over 1200 hits and 171 HR. (Unrealistically) add that to Berkmans totals and you get a guy with 3100 hits and 537 HR.

It's not a perfect comp of course -- Murray was full-time from age 21 while Berkman wasn't full-time until the middle of his age 24 season. Houston likely made a mistake there:

Berkman

age 22 at AA-AAA: 302/422/566 (mostly AA)
age 23 at AAA: 323/419/518 (half-season, mid-July call-up)
age 24 at AAA: 330/476/563 (144 PA, not on opening roster, maybe super 2 games)

He got only 7 starts in his first 25 games on the roster at age 24 then was pretty much full-time from late May. Didn't hit well in his age 23 call-up or the start of age 24 in ML but in his first month as a regular, he hit 351/404/660. There was however a strange stretch from mid-Aug to mid-Sept where he got only 8 starts in 26 games. He'd hit 300/380/570 on the season to that point and hit 280/400/540 during this stretch so god knows what they were thinking -- he was starting every few days so it doesn't appear to be injury-related.

He lost playing time mainly to Roger Cedeno. Not one of Dierker's brighter decisions. Cedeno had been the "big" offseason acquisition -- Derek Bell and Hampton for Cedeno and Dotel. He was injured for nearly 3 months, returning on Aug 18. In fairness, it was a good Cedeno season with an OBP over 380. With Alou, Hidalgo (one of his big years) and Bagwell around, there was legit competition for playing time. Maybe if Cedeno had been healthy at the deadline they'd have moved him -- they did trade him right after the season (an Ausmus trade). The 281 PA they gave to Daryle Ward that year are a bit harder to justify.

OBPs in the 2000 Astros OF: Cedeno 383, Berkman 388, Hidalgo 391, Alou 416. Add Bagwell 424, Meluskey 401 and Biggio 388. And don't stop there, from the bench: Spiers 386, Caminiti 419, Eusebio 361, Lugo 346.

The team's line (pitchers included) was 278/361/477 which was good for a team OPS+ of just 104. In 2013, that line would have been good for a 131 OPS+ on the Astros. :-)


   12. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: January 30, 2014 at 12:14 AM (#4648431)
I've written before about Berkman, most recently here. The short version of that link is that Berkman had one of the best postseason hitting careers in the history of baseball (highlighted by his remarkable Game 6 in 2011), and nobody noticed. With more October help from his teammates (or less harm from his opponents), he'd have David Ortiz's Hall of Fame case.
   13. Sweatpants Posted: January 30, 2014 at 12:51 AM (#4648442)
The 281 PA they gave to Daryle Ward that year are a bit harder to justify.
Ward was coming off a better 1999. He'd hit better than Berkman in the majors, and he'd absolutely destroyed AAA - .353/.416/.772 in 267 PA. Even in 2000 he showed a lot of potential, with 20 homers in about half a season's worth of plate appearances.
   14. base ball chick Posted: January 30, 2014 at 01:18 AM (#4648457)
berkman was the definition of clutch in the post season. of course, don't nobody notice because he played in some little nothing town

VERY quick swing and he was great at dumping those pop flies into the crawford boxes, too

in the late 90s/early 2000s the astros had a policy of keeping players in the minors/on the bench so as to get them a late start and the prime of their 6 years (at least i THINK that is the justification) and they did it with a LOT of guys

the owner didn't really like giving young guys the job at the beginning of the year and sticking to them and too many guys had a ridiculously late start even with incredible numbers at AAA (see jason lane, for just 1 example)

berkman is a very intelligent guy who likes to play dumb jock (at times) and gives a really GREAT interview. a lot of fans objected because he didn't always give monotone, emotionless face biggio type bull durham answers - like a True Professional does

he wasn't ever FAT, by the way. and yes he DID gain weight from his rookie year. at least the criticsz call it fat and not roids
   15. Jose Molina wants a nickname like "A-Rod" Posted: January 30, 2014 at 04:40 AM (#4648474)
"Decided to retire" being a nice way of saying "couldn't get a contract offer.


Um, Sizemore.
   16. BDC Posted: January 30, 2014 at 10:18 AM (#4648510)
There are not a lot of closely similar batting careers, since guys that good tend to play a bit longer. As Walt notes, Berkman played 15 seasons, was a semi-regular or more for the middle 12 of them, very durable for the middle eight of those: a long career by any standard except Cooperstown's. By OPS+ and PA:

Player           dWAR   PA OPSRfield WAR/pos    G  SB        Pos
Larry Walker      1.3 8030  141     95    72.4 1988 230 
*9H/387D45
Mike Piazza       1.0 7745  143    
-63    59.2 1912  17     *2DH/3
Duke Snider      
-5.9 8237  140    -22    66.6 2143  99     *89H/7
Bob Johnson      
-5.9 8050  139     18    57.2 1863  96  *78/3495H
Norm Cash        
-9.2 7914  139     39    51.9 2089  43    *3H/97D
Lance Berkman   
-11.7 7814  144    -18    52.0 1879  86    3798D/H
David Ortiz     
-17.5 8249  139    -14    44.0 1969  15       *D3H 


Dang, Larry Walker was a great player when held to the light properly :)

The three Bs won one pennant in Houston and almost won another. Did they underachieve? Probably not. It's incredibly hard to win the pennant, to paraphrase Ron Washington.

And one last thing: that list is actually centered on Berkman: IOW there's nobody with a career of roughly that length and an OPS+ between 144 and 149. He's the top hitter among his own comps, though he has one of the shorter careers among those centered on him, too.
   17. alilisd Posted: January 30, 2014 at 02:56 PM (#4648794)
All-time career Rbat for switch-hitters:

Mantle 801 (crikey)
Chipper 558
Berkman 422
Murray 388


Murray through age 37 and 11,048 PA's is at 411, a bit closer, but still a LOT more playing time to get there. Top 10 seasons are a big edge to Berkman, too, even giving Murray some credit for 1981. Was it easier to compile high Rbat seasons during the high offense era Berkman played his prime in relative to Murray's era?
   18. alilisd Posted: January 30, 2014 at 03:01 PM (#4648805)
He's the top hitter among his own comps, though he has one of the shorter careers among those centered on him, too.


I got Norm Cash as a very close comp when looking at it this morning, and he's on your list as well. I think he's a pretty good match for Berkman, but neither are HOF (unless for one's personal HOF you have lower playing time standards, which I think is perfectly reasonable; seems to me the actual HOF places too much emphasis on longevity).
   19. Walt Davis Posted: January 30, 2014 at 05:04 PM (#4648923)
agreed. berkman =walker - defense and base running = Ortiz + a bit of def/br = cash

you could throw giambi and delgado into the mix too.

in terms of rbat it probably was easier to put up high/low raw counts. The variance should be higher in high scoring eras. war would at least partially adjust with a higher rar to war conversion factor.
   20. alilisd Posted: January 31, 2014 at 12:41 PM (#4649265)
in terms of rbat it probably was easier to put up high/low raw counts. The variance should be higher in high scoring eras. war would at least partially adjust with a higher rar to war conversion factor.


Thanks Walt!

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