Monday Rockpile: Lance Berkman - Offseason target?

Off-topic here.

On Sunday, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe suggested that Lance Berkman could be a potential fit for Colorado. This follows up Troy Renck's conversation from October 14th with Berkman where Berkman expressed at least an interest in playing in Coors Field. Renck's followup thoughts were that Berkman would want to be a full-time player, and that the Rockies could potentially shuffle the switch-hitter between 1B and the OF, but this wouldn't be an ideal situation. Which is true, when you consider Dexter Fowler and Carlos Gonzalez are more or less penciled into CF and one of the two corner spots, and Ryan Spilborghs and Seth Smith provide superior defensive options (well, I guess that depends on which defensive metrics you subscribe to, if at all) to Berkman.

Click past the jump for some tidbits about Berkman.

Here are some numbers and areas of evaluation about Berkman:

  • Berkman is coming off of a 6-year, $85M contract that was signed by Houston in 2005. While there is a 2011 option on the contract, when he was traded to the Yankees, the option was to be declined (and Houston pitched in $4M in the trade).

  • He is coming off of the worst offensive year of his career, where he posted a .248/.368/.413 batting line, good for a .345 wOBA and 117 wRC+. He belted a mere 14 bombs, drove in 58 runs, and his power numbers dropped to the point of a .166 ISO. He could still be a solid rebound candidate, but he's been on a pretty steady offensive decline since 2008.

  • Despite the poor batting numbers, he also hit for a .282 BABIP, which is far below his .317 career mark. Much as I'd like to simply attribute this to poor luck, he also posted a career-low 16.0 LD% and a career-high 47.6 GB%

  • Interestingly enough, his contact rates are about 2% above his career line, and he made more contact on pitches in the zone than his career line, but he also swung at far fewer pitches in the zone than his career line. Point of this is that it's not just poor luck: he's swinging at fewer pitches and taking more first strikes.

  • Another potential downside of Berkman is that while he's a switch hitter, he has struggled vs lefties in his career (relative to righties, anyhow) and actually hit southpaws WORSE than Todd Helton in 2010 (44 wRC+ vs 91 wRC+). Considering that platooning Helton with Berkman at 1B is something that the Rockies would probably consider somewhat of a priority, this may not present an ideal option.

  • Strictly offensively, if Berkman's 2010 is any indication, he would present a batting option very similar to what we saw in 2010 from Jason Giambi, minus some strikeouts. Berkman posted a .345 wOBA in 2010; Giambi, .344.

  • In the field, Berkman grades out as a positive defensive option at 1B, showing good range and good fielding, as far as errors go. But as we mentioned earlier, he might see himself in LF or RF as well, and seeing how he hasn't played the outfield since 2007, we'd more than likely be looking at the second coming of Brad Hawpe, minus the cannon of an arm. Part of his poor fielding numbers may just be because of goofy Minute Maid Park and all of its gimmicks, but after being a full-time 1B for 3 years, I doubt he's going to stumble upon a renaissance in Coors Field's outfield.

This all being said, for as poor has his 2010 was, Berkman may have had just that: a poor season, not necessarily indicative of 2011's potential. But considering the lack of ability to hit LHP and question marks regarding his playing time, not to mention the potential price tag, Berkman may not be as good of a fit in Colorado as some might think.

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