What to Make of Lance Berkman's Power Surge in Arizona

Bleacher ReportContributor IIIApril 14, 2011

PHOENIX, AZ - APRIL 12:  Lance Berkman #12 of the St. Louis Cardinals hits a single against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the third inning of the Major League Baseball game at Chase Field on April 12, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Lance Berkman has shown the rest of baseball that he still has some life left in his bat during the Cardinals last few games in Arizona. Berkman had been struggling heading into Arizona with a .214/.290/.286 line with zero home runs.

Berkman had an incredible three games in Arizona, and coming into today's off day, he has a line of .293/.356/.634 with four home runs. Berkman had one home run in his 123 plate appearances for the Yankees.

The real question remains whether Berkman went to the well for one last surge, or can Berkman return to numbers he put up in the last decade? 

There is some evidence in favor of comeback season for Lance. Berkman's first week struggles were influenced by some bad luck. Overall, his season BABIP sits at .258 (the average is currently at .293), and his strikeout numbers (17 percent) and walk numbers (10 percent) were pretty solid before heading to Arizona.

Berkman's batted ball numbers have been better during the first two weeks of this season. He is back to a lower groundball rate at 43 percent after a career high of 47.6 percent in 2010. Berkman has also been hitting the ball relatively hard with a 25 percent line drive rate.  

Looking at video of Berkman's at-bats during the series, it is obvious that he found his power stroke to left and left-center field as a left-handed batter. Berkman's power as a left-handed hitter has always been to that direction.

His most impressive home run was his opposite field grand slam on a 91 mph fastball on the outside corner from Ian Kennedy. Three of his four home runs came on fastballs that were hit to the opposite field, and the other came on a slider that was lined to right field.  

Berkman's case becomes murky mostly because of where and against whom Berkman had his tremendous three games. Arizona's Chase Field, like Coors Field or the Great American Ballpark, is known as a hitter's haven.

Add to the fact that the Diamondbacks have one of the poorer pitching staffs in baseball. They have given up the second most home runs per nine innings, of course Chase Field inflates that number, and they have the third highest WHIP in baseball.

Juan Gutierrez, Sam Demel, Armando Galarraga and Ian Kennedy were the pitchers who served up Berkman's long balls, Kennedy being the only above-average one of the bunch. 

Berkman has still struggled from the right side of the plate. In a very small sample size, he is currently 0-for-8 with two strikeouts. Berkman looked lost as a right-handed hitter last season, and while he has always been better from the left side, he usually supplied some power as a right-handed hitter.

With this small sample size, it is hard to say where his right-handed swing is, but it I have a hard time believing it is in good shape.

I think we can say after this week's performance that Berkman won't have a terrible repeat of 2010, when he battled health issues to start the season.

However, I don't think we will see a complete return to his mid-2000 form (may be if he played all of is games in Arizona). I still expect a season of 20 home runs with a .270/.380/.475 line, somewhat closer to his 2009 numbers.