Fantasy Baseball 2012 Projection: How Far of a Regression for Lance Berkman?

Eric StashinSenior Writer IMarch 15, 2012

ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 24: Lance Berkman #12 of the St. Louis Cardinals reacts after striking out in the fourth inning during Game Five of the MLB World Series against the Texas Rangers at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on October 24, 2011 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Those who rolled the dice on Lance Berkman in 2011 were treated to one of the biggest fantasy bargains of the year. 

While many wrote him off after he struggled with the Astros & Yankees in 2010 (.248, 14 HR, 58 RBI in 404 AB), those who kept the faith were treated to the following numbers:

488 At Bats
.301 Batting Average (147 Hits)
31 Home Runs
94 RBI
90 Runs
2 Stolen Bases
.412 On Base Percentage
.547 Slugging Percentage
.315 BABIP

Obviously the loss of Albert Pujols is going to put a whole new pressure on Berkman.  While he will be joined by Matt Holliday in the middle of the Cardinals lineup, there is now a stronger need for him to match last season’s production, otherwise the offense has the potential to struggle mightily.

The question facing fantasy owners is if we buy into the resurgence? 

The one number that instantly jumps out at you was his line drive rate, which was his highest mark since 2005.  From 2006-2009 he was fairly consistent, with marks ranging from 17.9% to 19.2%.  Obviously, in 2010 he struggled, posting a career low 16.0%.  It wasn’t a surprise to see him improve, but all the way up to 22.1%?

I wouldn’t fully buy into that number, given what he had done in recent years, and that alone would help lead to a regression from his numbers across the board.  If he isn’t hitting the ball with as much authority, he simply isn’t going to be able to produce as well.  It’s pretty cut and dry.

You also have to question his 19.9% HR/FB (best since 2007) and career low 38.7% groundball rate (he had only been below 42.5% once since 2005).  In other words, we would expect less of the fly balls to go over the fence and the line drives to likely become groundballs.  So far we shouldn’t like what we are hearing.

Throw in the fact that he only had 23 doubles, and it is clear that things are not heading in the right direction.

Obviously, I am not about to suggest that he’s going to produce like he did in 2010, but he also isn’t likely to replicate his 2011 success.  He is going to hit in the middle of the Cardinals lineup, and that alone should offer him opportunities to produce.

Then again, the latter statement hinges on his ability to stay healthy for an entire season.  Over the past three seasons he has consistently missed time, being held to 460, 404 and 488 AB.  At 36-years old, why exactly do we think that anything is suddenly going to be different?

When you put all the risk on the table, you get the following projection for 2012:

.280 (133-475), 24 HR, 85 RBI, 80 R, 4 SB, .306 BABIP, .397 OBP, .499 SLG

They are good numbers, but they aren’t numbers that you want to overpay for. 

According to Mock Draft Central, he has an ADP of 95.93, not a terrible number (the 27th outfielder coming off the board).  Just keep in mind that he isn’t going to match last year’s numbers, nor does he have the upside of some other players.

In other words, if you can get him at around that spot or later I am fully on board.  If you have to reach a little higher to get him he is not worth it.

Make sure to check out our 2012 projections: