The St. Louis Cardinals currently boast the second best record in the National League, despite losing pitcher Adam Wainwright for the season and Albert Pujols having a not-so-Albert-like season. While the Cardinals have found ways to get the most out of their pitching to fill in the holes, there is one contributor on offense that has helped improve one of last season’s most potent offenses – Lance Berkman.
The 35-year-old first baseman turned outfielder seemed to be on the downward slope of his career in recent years, failing to bat over .275 the last three seasons along with the deterioration of his power numbers. After spending just over 11 seasons with the Houston Astros, the team that drafted him in 1999, Berkman was traded to the New York Yankees at the trade deadline last season.
He was serviceable for the Yankees but still seemed to be a shell of his former self. They only needed him as a rental and it was assumed that he would not rejoin the club at the start of the 2011 season.
However, maybe all Berkman needed was the right change of scenery, as it appears the move to St. Louis has rejuvenated the five-time All-Star. Berkman has been everything the Cardinals had hoped for and then some when they signed him to a one-year contract this past winter. Just 39 games into the season, he is already close to eclipsing his numbers from last year and is also the early front runner for the league’s MVP, but it is certainly too early to start to mention that.
Berkman has the fourth best batting average in all of baseball at .349 and is also among the top five in RBIs and home runs, it certainly helps that he bats fifth in the Cardinals lineup, just after Matt Holliday and Pujols.
Thanks to Holliday and Berkman, the Cardinals are a half game up on the Cincinnati Reds who, despite starting off the season dreadfully, have managed to turn it around and play some decent baseball recently.
And just think, the Cardinals are in first place despite the fact that Pujols, arguably the best player in the game, is only hitting .269. Add in seven home runs and 25 RBIs and for most players that is very respectable but for Pujols, it’s a disappointing start to the season.
Watch out when he finally turns back into the home run machine because the Cardinals will be one of the most dangerous teams in the National League.
Photo Courtesy of: ASSOCIATED PRESS