Archive for Lance Berkman
When the Yankees extended their season by taking Game Five yesterday, they did so thanks to the performances of their star players. Robbie Cano hit his fourth homer of the ALCS, Alex Rodriguez doubled to set-up a rally and drew two walks, Jorge Posada drove in the first run of the game and then came around to score, CC Sabathia provided six hard-fought innings, and Mariano Rivera was there to close things out in the ninth. The team’s best players were their best players in the most important game of the season, but let’s not understate the contributions they received from their deadline pickups.
Mark Teixeira‘s season came to an abrupt end in Game Four when his right hamstring popped running down to first, so Lance Berkman is now stepping in as the Yanks’ full-time first baseman. I don’t know about you, but I’d have called you crazy if you woulda told me in April that Berkman would be the team’s everyday first baseman in the ALCS. Does not compute.
Anyway, Fat Elvis dusted off his first baseman’s mitt and took to the field for just the eighth time in forty games as a Yankee. I know he had some adventurous plays down in Tampa early on and even had that nasty spill yesterday, but overall Berkman is a solid defensive first baseman (his +13.1 UZR over the last three years is basically identical to Tex’s, for what it’s worth) capable of making all the routine plays plus a little more. He won’t make the flashy plays or the throws that Teixeira can, but it’s not like the Yankees had to resort to trotting Jason Giambi out there in the postseason.
Despite batting righthanded, by far his weaker side this season (.236 wOBA), Puma managed to contribute some offensively in Game Five, drawing a walk and driving in a run with a well-struck sac fly. His approach was rather simple; he just took everything not in his happy zone, which resulted in 22 pitches seen in just four plate appearances. The potential was there for zero offensive contribution, but Berkman’s been a great hitter for a long time and he found a way to chip in anything he could from his weak side. That’s all you could ask for from your backup first baseman.
After the Yanks had built up their lead and gotten all they could out of Sabathia, they handed the ball over to another July 31st pickup in Kerry Wood. The Yankee bullpen, a strength the entire second half, had faltered in a big way during Games Three and Four, allowing 11 runs and 16 baserunners in just five innings of work, but Wood was not involved in that disaster. The first batter he faced, the pesky Elvis Andrus, reached base on his eleventyith infield hit of the series, but some pitches and pickoff throws later, Wood caught him straying too far off second. Kerry had one pickoff since the 2006 season, but Andrus was his second of the ALCS. Lucky? Yes. Do you need luck to dig out of the three games to one hole? Also yes.
Wood went to work against the heart of Texas’ order with the Andrus pickoff mixed in. He struck out both Michael Young and Josh Hamilton to end the seventh, and then came out to retire Vlad Guerrero, David Murphy, and Ian Kinsler in order in the eighth. David Robertson, Joba Chamberlain, and Boone Logan were horrifically ineffective during the past two games, but Wood stepped up in the must-win situation and give his club two big innings to bridge the gap between Sabathia and Mariano Rivera.
Berkman and Wood were ideal deadline pickups for many reasons off-the-field, such as low cost to acquire and short commitment, but on-the-field they made perfect sense. Both are veteran players with playoff (and in Berkman’s case, World Series) experience, but more importantly they bought into their role. Berkman’s a hero in Houston, where he played every single day and hit in the middle of the order for the last decade or so. With the Yankees, he was just a platoon designated hitter now pressed into a more important role. Wood was saving games for a last place team in Cleveland, and saves equal money on the free agent market. He joined the Yanks as just another cog in their deep bullpen, but emerged as someone much more important than that.
When the Yanks acquired these two guys at the deadline, none of us expected them to be this important with the season on the line. If you’re going to lose a player of Mark Teixeira’s caliber to injury, Lance Berkman’s a pretty damn good replacement to have. Should the regular relievers falter, having a hard-throwing strikeout machine like Kerry Wood to back them up is more than you could ask for. Neither player will be with the Yanks next season, but right now they’re doing everything asked of them and then some to help this team try to win a World Championship, and we appreciate that.
The New York Yankees playoff roster reads as one from a mid-2000s All Star Game would. Somehow, some way, both Kerry Wood and Lance Berkman landed on the 2010 New York Yankees, and while those two players aren’t nearly as good as they once were, they’ve each made their impacts felt during the first two games of the American League Division Series.
For Berkman, coming to the Bronx hasn’t been easy. A Texas man with Rice University in his blood, Berkman spent 12 years and played 1592 games for the Astros. At age 34, his health is failing him, but he can still hit right-handers. The Yankees picked him up in a salary dump for Mark Melancon, and while Berkman moved from the bottom of the NL Central to the top of the AL East, he was hesitant about the trade. He didn’t want to leave Texas and had no idea what New York held for him.
His regular season stint in New York wasn’t a booming success. In limited duty, he hit .255/.358/.349, and he didn’t power his one home run over the fence until his 32nd game in pinstripes. Yankee fans grew to despise Berkman when he made some fielding flubs in Tampa Bay and later hit A-Rod on the shin with a line drive during batting practice. Berkman’s two months on the Yanks resembled something out of the Murphy’s Law Handbook to Baseball.
Yet, with four at-bats on Thursday, Lance put the bad will behind him. He went 2 for 4 with a double and a home run and two runs batted in. His fifth inning home run put the Yanks up 2-1, and his seventh inning double put the Yanks on top for good as Jorge Posada scored from first. A week ago, Lance was an after-thought. Today, we love him.
With Lance’s bat providing the offensive thunder, Kerry Wood’s once-golden right arm has given the Yanks a solid set-up option in front of Mariano Rivera. We all know the Kerry Wood story — 20 strike outs at age 21, an arm injury, some good years a starter, overuse, more injuries, a move to the bullpen. After burning out in Chicago, Wood found success in the pen, but he seemed to flounder in Cleveland.
Dealing with some minor injuries, Wood’s first 23 appearances this year were less than impressive. As the trade deadline rolled around, Kerry was 1-4 with a 6.30 ERA, but he had 18 strike outs in 20 innings. Yankee scouts liked what they saw, and for cash, the Yanks got Kerry.
Since arriving in the Bronx, Wood has been revelation. He walks too many guys — 6.2 per 9 innings in 26 innings — but he’s striking out over 10 per 9 IP. His ERA in the Bronx was, with a little bit of luck, a minuscule 0.69. He’s inherited the role left, with little confidence, to Joba Chamberlain, and he came through in a big spot on Thursday. With the Yanks up 4-2, the Twins sent up J.J. Hardy, Denard Span and Orlando Hudson in the 8th. To strike out Hardy, Wood threw a literal knee-buckling breaking pitch. Span grounded back to Wood, and Hudson struck out on pure heat.
Wood and Berkman are the ideal deadline pick-ups for the Yanks. They’re veteran players with playoff experience and success who were toiling away on bad teams. For dollars, the Yanks could augment their roster and build up a bullpen and a bench. That’s how Brian Cashman, with the Yanks’ deep pockets at his disposal, should run his team.
The future for these two current playoff heroes remains hazy. Lance Berkman says he wants to play everyday next year. “I don’t like to platoon,” he said. “If I was the manager I would platoon me because I’ve been so bad righthanded this year. But I don’t think that’s a permanent problem. I like to play every day. The DH role is great but I also like to play the field. I feel like I’ve got something to offer still defensively.”
Kerry Wood’s deal features a club option for $11 million in 2011. That’s closer money, and unless Mariano Rivera unexpectedly retires, Wood will seek employment elsewhere. He has the mentality for the 9th inning and indications are that he wants to close. He and Berkman will be just a pair of rent-a-Yankees.
The Yankees certainly know that Wood and Berkman probably won’t return. They know that these two key cogs are fleeting, and they’re going to ride them for all they can. Girardi will give Wood the ball for the 8th, and he’ll let Berkman take his hacks against right-handers. Bring in the mercenaries with money, push them for the playoffs, and ride their coattails to victory. So far, it’s a winning formula.
It was an up and down night for Phil Hughes. The Yankees staked him to an early lead, and while he was shaky in a few innings he ultimately kept things in order. There were a few troubling walks, but in the end his line looked just fine. The offense did their jobs, knocking in the runners who reached scoring position. The result was an 8-3 win and a 2.5 game lead in the division.
Biggest Hit: Berkman keeps the rally going
While there was plenty of action in the following eight innings, most of the action took place in the first. Nick Swisher homered on a fastball that James Shields laid right over the heart of the plate. After Mark Teixeira walked and Alex Rodriguez singled on a ball that nearly got through the hole between third and short, James Shields seemed to recover by striking out Robinson Cano on five straight curveballs. But he fell behind Jorge Posada and got burned on a 3-1 fastball for the game’s second run.
That brought up Lance Berkman. After having his fastball knocked around in the inning Shields started with a curveball. He went back with the fastball 0-1, but it didn’t look like he intended to throw it for a strike. Two changeups, a called strike and a ball low, followed. Shields then mixed things up with a cutter, but it caught a bit too much of the plate. Berkman reached down and drove it over B.J. Upton’s head. It was deep enough to score Posada from first and give the Yankees a 4-0 lead. Curtis Granderson followed with a single of his own to open up a 5-run lead, but it was Berkman’s double that gave the Yanks their biggest advantage of the night.
Biggest Pitch: Hughes escapes unscathed
With a run in both the second and the third, the Rays had closed the lead by the fourth. By this point Michael Kay and John Flaherty couldn’t shut up about how the momentum of the game had shifted. The Rays only fed their narrative by loading the bases with two outs. Hughes would have to get past Ben Zobrist to get out of it.
Hughes delivered the first pitch, a cutter, with precision, hitting the low-outside corner. He then went back to the four-seamer, delivering it waist high on the outside edge. Zobrist rolled over it and bounced it to Teixeira, allowing Hughes to escape the inning without damage. The inning was mostly his own doing — he did walk two batters — but Hughes rose to the occasion when his team needed it the most.
Honorable Mention: Joba gets out of the eighth
The fourth inning wasn’t the only time the Rays loaded the bases. Javier Vazquez relieved Hughes in the seventh and allowed an inherited runner to score. He then came out for the eighth and allowed two of the first three batters to reach. With the righties Upton and Jason Bartlett due up, Joe Girardi opted to have Joba Chamberlain finish off the inning.
Joba immediately got himself into trouble, allowing a single to Upton. That loaded the bases with just one out. Predictably, Joe Maddon pinch hit with Brad Hawpe, meaning Joba had to retire two straight lefties. He got ahead with a fastball away and was eventually up 1-2. After a slider in the dirt and two more fastballs, Joba faced a crucial 3-2 count. Most pitchers, I’m sure, would have gone to the fastball, but Joba threw a slider that probably would have hit the low-inside corner. It didn’t matter, though; Hawpe swung and hit only air.
Facing Jaso, Joba didn’t even bother with his secondary pitches. He just dealt fastballs away, eventually inducing a fly out to center. He then came out for the ninth and retired the Rays in order. This definitely ranked among Joba’s finest performances of the season.
The Yankees left six men on base, which isn’t all that bad considering they had 14 base runners. They were also 5 for 10 with runners in scoring position.
The only hitless starter was Teixeira, who missed a homer by just a tiny bit. He did put a few good swings on balls, if you’re looking for a silver lining
Hughes allowed just one homer, though it was his 20th of the season at Yankee Stadium. I think I heard a commentator say that the last pitcher to do that was Scott Sanderson. Memories.
Javy Vazquez didn’t allow a run, but he didn’t do himself any favors by allowing an inherited runner to score and then putting two on with none out in the next inning. Hopefully he gets more work down the stretch, because he’s destined for the bullpen in the playoffs.
The Yanks did miss a chance to get James Shields out of the game way early. But he settled down and gave the Rays 5.1 innings. Still, they needed five relievers to finish the game. That’s never good when there are two games remaining. Then again, the Yanks got away with it on Monday, so it might be no big deal.
It’s always a joy when half of the team’s hits go for extra bases.
Graph and box
Gotta love it when the line stays that high.
A.J. Burnett continues his road to recovery tomorrow night. Wade Davis takes the hill for the Rays.
As the Yanks have wrapped play on August 31, they’ll soon have the option to expand their active roster to 40, and according to Chad Jennings, the team is going to take advantage of the added depth. The Journal News beat writer says that Greg Golson, Jonathan Albaladejo and Chad Moeller will be summoned to the big leagues. The remainder of the Scranton roster will have to take aim at the AAA title without its record-setting closer. Moeller’s promotion will require a 40-man move, but there’s a lot of dead weight on that thing right now.
In addition to these call-ups, the Yankees will activate Lance Berkman from the DL on Sept. 1st as well. Alfredo Aceves could rejoin the Yanks too, and A-Rod will be returned to us on Sunday once his 15-day stint is up as well. For now, Jesus Montero will remain at AAA.
Out since August 15th with an ankle injury, Lance Berkman is set to join Double-A Trenton on a rehab assignment tomorrow. “I don’t anticipate he’ll need a ton,” said Joe Girardi in reference to the number of rehab at-bats Berkman would need, “but you just have to see how it goes.” Rosters expand on Wednesday, so the smart money is on Berkman playing with the Thunder tomorrow and Tuesday before rendezvousing with the team in New York.
Of course, the DL stint wasn’t completely necessary to start with, but remember the Yanks were dealing with a bit of a roster crunch at the time. Alex Rodriguez and Nick Swisher were both banged up, and at one point the team had a one man bench. Hopefully Berkman comes back strong and adds some length to the lineup.
Update: Berkman’s comment: “I know fans can’t wait for me to continue my pursuit of the Mendoza line.” I laughed.
Update (4:45pm): Berkman’s day-to-day with a jammed right ankle. Not too bad, I guess.
4:00pm: Lance Berkman left today’s game with an apparent ankle injury after stepping on the back of Bryan Bullington’s foot as the Royals’ righthander covered first on a double play attempt. Marcus Thames took his place as the designated hitter. No word on the severity of the injury, but we’ll keep you updated.
Berkman was 0-for-2 on the day, but he was hitting .333/.444/.600 in his previous 18 plate appearances, so it’s obviously not an insignificant loss.
In the past two days we’ve been introduced to the newest bunch of New York Yankees. While the team has sat in first place since mid-June, there are always opportunities to improve. The Yankees took advantage of that by acquiring Lance Berkman, Austin Kearns, and Kerry Wood for Mark Melancon, Jimmy Paredes, two players to be named later, and partial payment of the players’ remaining salaries. If that sounds like a haul, well, it is — and not just because the three carry name value. They’re all upgrades over the in-house alternative.
In essence, Berkman replaced Juan Miranda as the DH against right-handed pitchers (I assume Marcus Thames will continue to get at least some starts at DH against LHP), Kearns replaced Colin Curtis, and Wood replaced Chan Ho Park. Again, the upgrades are clear just by looking at the names. Just how much difference will they make? Let’s take a look at the in-house player and his replacement using ZiPS rest of season projections.
Berkman over Miranda
With Nick Johnson out, the Yanks have had to make a few adjustments with the DH spot in the lineup. For a while Jorge Posada was playing there, but after his foot was declared fully healthy he slid back in behind the plate, where his bat provides more value. That left a vacancy at DH against right-handed pitching, since Marcus Thames had it covered against lefties. Juan Miranda was the obvious choice, a lefty with a questionable glove and some pop. He appeared at the plate just 67 times this year, so it’s tough to get a gauge of what he can really do. The Yanks, apparently, were not willing to have a look and see.
In those 67 PA Miranda produced a .323 wOBA, mostly because of his .213 ISO. His OBP was .299, which is never productive for a DH. ZiPS actually had him a bit worse the rest of the way, a .242/.313/.392 line that amounts to a .313 wOBA. That’s not the stuff of a DH. Even if you want to adjust it upward, thinking that he’ll face almost no LHP, I don’t think you could get even to league average with the adjustment. Juan Miranda just wasn’t the answer at DH.
The most important part of the Berkman trade, I think, is how he’s improved every month since undergoing knee surgery in March. That should make for a more optimistic rest-of-season projection, and ZiPS doesn’t fail us there. It projects him to hit .265/.385/.488 the rest of the way, or a .384 wOBA. That’s more DH-like production. Even if he produces a bit less than that, say a .370 wOBA, it’s still a significant upgrade over the in-house options. It will look even better if that .384 projection includes his numbers against LHP. Replace those with Marcus Thames, and that’s a strong DH platoon.
*Though I’m not entirely certain they’ll employ a platoon. Tough to tell a player of Berkman’s caliber that he’s sitting against lefties.
Kearns over Curtis
Surprisingly, I found a few Yanks fans who weren’t so hot on this deal. I couldn’t figure out why. Colin Curtis is nice and all, and his mid-at-bat pinch-hit home run last month remains one of my favorite memories of 2010. As a useful player, though, give me Kearns every time. He can play defense at the corners and can get on base at a decent clip. Despite a few down years he still has a .353 career OBP.
ZiPS does not cover Curtis, since he didn’t factor into the Yanks’ roster during the off-season. We can safely assume that he wouldn’t produce a .337 wOBA, which is what ZiPS projects for Kearns the rest of the way. For a fourth outfielder that’s rather impressive. It will also give the Yanks the option to sit Curtis Granderson against the tougher lefties in the league, which will not only remove his production against lefties, but also perhaps help Kearns’s numbers since he’d be facing mostly opposite-handed pitchers. Colin Curtis would not afford them that opportunity.
Wood over Park
The idea behind acquiring Kerry Wood is that he can provide the Yankees an additional option in the late-innings — the Bridge to Mariano if you will. Maybe he’ll be that good, maybe he won’t. Yet in terms of direct value, he is probably an excellent upgrade over Chan Ho Park, the pitcher the Yankees removed from the roster after acquiring Wood.
Despite a good season out of the pen for Park in 2009, ZiPS isn’t so high on him for the rest of the season. I fully expected to see something like a 3.90 ERA projection, but instead ZiPS sees Park as we fans do, as someone who can’t get the job done. It projects a 5.59 ERA with a 4.84 FIP for the final two months. Clearly the Yanks can do better than that, even if they chose to go in-house.
ZiPS projects Wood a bit more favorably, a 4.50 ERA and 3.80 FIP, including 10.13 K/9 and an acceptable home run rate. That’s not the stuff of a primary setup man, but it’s certainly better than Park. Plus, the idea behind this acquisition was pure upside. The Yanks know that Wood can beat those projections if everything is working. They’re hoping, in other words, that they get the 2008 version of Wood, the guy who struck out 11.40 per nine, kept his walk rate below 2.50, and kept the ball in the park.
But even if he doesn’t, he’s still one of the better options in the bullpen.
The 24-hour grace period is over, and according to a press release the Yankees have officially acquired Lance Berkman. The Astros receive minor leaguers Mark Melancon and Jimmy Paredes in the deal while kicking in $4M to help cover for the $7M still guaranteed to Berkman through the end of the season. The Yanks’ new designated hitter will be in uniform tonight, and presumably in the starting lineup.
Welcome to the Boogie Down, Lance.