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)
FanGraphs' Jesse Wolfersberger (if that's his real name) on the Cardinals' Great Puma Experiment:
When St. Louis signed Lance Berkman this offseason, it raised a lot of questions:
"Don't the Cardinals still have Pujols?"
"Wait, he's going to play outfield?"
"Can he even hit anymore?"
Through the first two weeks of the season, the Cardinals' gamble on the man called "The Big Puma" is paying off.
Through 14 games, Berkman is hitting .308/.368/.692. He leads the team with six home runs and 13 RBIs. Thus far, he looks more like the perennial All-Star from his Houston days than the over-the-hill slugger who posted a .314 wOBA with the Yankees last season.
The six home runs are particularly impressive, considering he hit just one bomb in 123 plate appearances after the Yankees gave the Astros a couple of prospects last summer to get him.
But Berkman was still recovering from a knee injury last season, plus ... well, there's a reason his other nickname is "Fat Elvis." But we might surmise that $8 million is a powerful incentive, and Berkman reportedly lost 20 pounds this winter. Then again, Berkman presumably lost that weight after signing with the Cardinals in early December, so that's a testament to his professionalism rather than his greed.
Without going into any of the gritty details (because I don't know them), we may probably assume that a sore knee heals better when it's not carrying an extra 20 pounds, and to this point anyway Berkman would seem to be completely healthy. He's obviously never going to be a great outfielder and at this point the switch-hitter isn't worth much against left-handed pitching. So to earn his $8 million, he really has to smash the right-handed pitchers.
Which, to this point anyway, he's done.
Of course, it's only 14 games. Let's check back in June.