Lance Berkman Clears Waivers: 5 Reasons Why Texas Should Capitalize
Milwaukee has cemented the division title for the NL Central, so this offers the Cardinals a great opportunity to begin preparing for the 2012 season.
Berkman will certainly be a hot commodity in the next 24 hours and should yield interest from a number of playoff contenders.
A move to Texas would greatly strengthen their chances for a second shot at the World Series.
The Recent Injury to Nelson Cruz
The hot-hitting Nelson Cruz left the game Sunday night with what was called a strained left hamstring. Depending on the severity of the strain, Cruz could end up on the 15 day DL, creating a gaping hole in right field.
Cruz' performance in 2011 will not make for an easy task in replacing him. 28 home runs, 84 RBI and a .270 average make him one of the most productive Rangers in the lineup.
It isn't often that a team can lose such a valuable player so late into the regular season and be presented, ever so conveniently, with a player who has outperformed him.
Enter Lance Berkman.
Berkman is enjoying his best season since 2007, currently hitting .289 with 30 home runs and 81 RBI, and would be the best option to fill the hole in right field.
Upon Cruz' return, and as the Rangers look to solidify their postseason roster, Cruz could be moved to center field, taking the place of Endy Chavez.
In this case, an outfield of Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz and Lance Berkman would arguably give Texas the most offensively-productive outfield in the playoffs.
Build on Your Strengths
Texas has been among the most offensively talented teams all season long. In the American League, they rank second in batting average, third in runs scored and third in home runs.
The acquisition of Berkman not only effectively fills a hole in the lineup, but it introduces an All-Star bat to the already gifted roster.
With Cruz in the lineup, Berkman could be used as a designated hitter, while Mike Napoli is at backstop.
For the sake of analysis, that would produce a batting order that looks something like this:
The added solidity in the middle of the order simultaneously balances the bottom of the order, giving the Rangers top-to-bottom efficiency from the plate.
With Texas already being one of the best all-around hitting teams in baseball, adding Berkman to the mix could pose as quite a threat to even the best postseason pitching staffs.
At 35 years old, Berkman will bring leadership qualities to any team he plays on. It isn't leadership qualities, however, that will most benefit the Rangers clubhouse.
With less than 40 games left on the schedule and an injury to a key offensive producer, Texas couldn't be luckier to have the opportunity of picking up Berkman. I mean, what could be better than replacing a 28 home run hitter with one who hits 30 and adds 19 points to the position's batting average?
Here's the spoiler: Berkman performs better in the playoffs than in the regular season.
Through 34 postseason games, he has amassed 39 hits, seven home runs and 30 RBI while hitting to the tune of .320/.419/.582.
Texas got bested in the 2010 World Series by a stellar San Francisco Giants pitching staff, and while their own rotation brings up questions about whether or not they can withstand five- and seven-game series against the best lineups in baseball, adding Lance Berkman would answer any questions left up in the air last year about their hitting.
Help Each Other out
As I mentioned before, Berkman is 35 years old and not getting any younger. He has been vocal about the possibility of his retirement after the 2011 season, and clearing waivers has given him the opportunity to go out with a bang.
The Texas Rangers are, with their current roster, one of the most talented teams in baseball. They have played well against the top in the American League, and are likely to make an aggressive playoff run without the acquisition of any new players.
That being said, as has been noted throughout this article, Berkman would bring more than just a great head of hair to the Rangers lineup. His presence in Texas would, without a doubt, make them favourites for the ALCS, and beyond.
Conversely, stoking Texas' fire in heading to the World Series for the second year in a row moves him from a situation in which he had no chance at the playoffs to one where he could very likely win his first World Championship, giving him the opportunity to retire at the pinnacle of his career.
This transaction offers a laundry list of opportunity for both parties involved, and either would be foolish to get in the way of it taking place.
Berkman Bats Against the Best
As if his postseason accolades aren't enough to catch the Rangers' attention, Berkman has another less obvious trait that all potential suitors should know—Texas especially. Against Philadelphia, Atlanta and Arizona (all leaders of their divisions) this season, Berkman has hit for a .375, .300 and .360 average respectively, with OBPs of .524, .364 and .448.
Being in the American League, many Texas hitters have limited experience against National League pitchers, and with Berkman swatting the ball like he has been against the league's best all season, Texas is presented with someone who will be able to cash in runs from the cleanup spot with great efficiency.
Lance Berkman is literally a weapon for hire for the Texas Rangers, and with their favourable chances at progressing through the playoffs, I'd be hard-pressed to see any faults in making a run at the aging slugger.