By R.J. Anderson //
One of the weekend’s biggest trades brought Lance Berkman to the New York Yankees from the Houston Astros for two minor leaguers. Berkman was in the lineup on Saturday night; batting second while starting at DH. That seems to be the lineup slot and position he’ll likely man during his tenure in New York. Does that make him an attractive option in AL-only leagues?
Berkman’s switch-hitting ability meshes well with the rest of the Yankees’ lineup, which features three other switch-hitters in Nick Swisher, Mark Teixeira, and Jorge Posada. Throughout his career Berkman has hit righties better than lefties, however. With a sky-high .307 AVG/.423 OBP/.591 SLG versus righties, but just .262/.366/.415 vs. lefties. The good news for current and potential Berkman owners is that he’ll be spending a lot of time batting from the left-handed batters’ box, meaning the short porch in Yankee Stadium’s right field could be in play often.
It’s easy to look at his career interleague numbers (which feature a .295/.390/.511 slash line with 30 home runs in 711 plate appearances) and assume he’ll continue to hit that well in the AL. The reality is, those numbers are meaningless. Berkman has been playing baseball in the majors since 1999. He’s appeared in nearly 1,600 games. He has 6,720 career plate appearances. To separate 711 over a span of 12 seasons and assume they’re meaningful doesn’t make sense. He may have faced more weak teams than strong teams and played in friendly hitting environments on the road, or had other factors skew his performance. He’s also past his prime at this point, making some of his peak performance look dated.
Graphic courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com
What we know is that the level of competition in the American League East far outweighs that of the National League Central. It would be nonsensical to assume Berkman’s projected performances couldn’t slip based on competition alone. The move into Yankees Stadium will help. Being surrounded by great hitters will help when it comes to scoring runs. But there is no guarantee he will light up the league.
That doesn’t mean he’s not worth your time. With the deadline passed, you might as well break your free agent acquisition budget. But if you’re looking to give our offense a big lift, consider making a trade or two to augment the size of your potential offensive boost.
For more on Lance Berkman and his new team, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Front Office