Friday, May 16, 2008

Lance Berkman - Caliente

Lance Berkman, switch-hitting first baseman for the Houston Astros, has been one of my favorite baseball players since his early days with the team when I lived in Houston back in the 90s. He's slightly chubby, not very fast, and has a great sense of humor - kinda like John Kruk, except with more power, without the mullett, and with both testicles intact. And he's on a hot streak. And not just any normal hot streak. He has a 14-game hitting streak, and he's produced numbers you might see in a slow-pitch softball league. During this streak (started April 30), he has:

- a .537 batting average (29-for-54), OBP .613
- 7 HR, 21 RBI, 7 doubles, 9 walks
- struck out only 5 times
- increased his batting average from .297 to .391
- increased is OBP from .387 to .472
- had hits in 8 consecutive at-bats

And the most important stat of all - the Astros are 11-3 during the streak, vaulting themselves into early contention in the NL Central, despite having mediocre pitching. I had originally written this yesterday, and I had to revise it because his performance yesterday afternoon added some luster to his already great streak. How hot is Berkman? He went 2-for-4 yesterday, and his average during the streak actually went down. He drove in three runs, and he hit a solo home run in the ninth to break a 7-7 tie and the Astros came back from a 7-3 deficit to win 8-7.

Here are a couple nice quotes that give an idea of Lance's personality:

"In Baltimore last year I forgot how many outs there were and ran off the field. I got to the line, and I was like, Oh, my gosh, nobody's running off (the field). I immediately went to the fake knee injury. The trainer came running out and was like, 'Are you O.K.?' And I said, 'Yeah, I just forgot how many outs there were.' That was right after I came back from my knee surgery so I had a built in excuse."
- Sports Illustrated, April 4, 2006

"I'm as low-maintenance a hitter as there probably is," Berkman said. "I never watch video anyway. I just go out there, take my round of batting practice and play the game. Especially when things are going well, you don't want to tinker too much."

Lance Berkman es muy caliente!

* If the Tigers ever get hot, I'd love to write something about them. Until then, all aboard the Berkman express...

ADDED: I just looked up the record for most hits in a month. The record is 67. That is completely insane. He's got a couple weeks left, but he'll have to pick up the pace to match it. He's got 28 in 13 games in May.

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