After reading a CBS Sports article about the possibility of Lance Berkman retiring after the season is over, I got to thinking about his career. I do not think he is a real Hall of Fame candidate, but where does he fit on the all-time list of switch-hitters?
Let’s look at his standard career numbers first. In 13 seasons he has hit .295/.408/.547 (average/on-base/slugging). He has collected 355 home runs and 1,176 RBI’s. And if those numbers weren’t good enough for you, Berkman was an All-Star in 6 of his 13 seasons in the Big Leagues.
As an additional measure of Berkman’s career, let’s take a look at the advanced metrics. Berkmans WAR is negatively affected by his below-average defense, but still comes in at 49.6 for his career. His oWAR, which is exclusive of defense, puts him at 53.0. For his career, Berkman has accounted for 487 RAR (Runs Above Replacement – the number of runs a player has accounted for above a random replacement Triple-A player). This equates to about a 0.08 RAR per at-bat.
To be fair, we’ll compare Berkman against similar switch-hitters. Rather than use players who hit for average, steal a lot of bases, or are prototypical lead-off men, we will look at power hitters. But to make it more interesting, we’ll only address the statistics and reveal the names of these players at the end.
.297/.381./.477 – 287 home runs – 1,257 RBI’s
47.3 WAR – 59.3 oWAR – 486 RAR – 0.06 RAR/AB
.298/.421/.557 – 536 home runs – 1,509 RBI’s
120.2 WAR – 122.1 oWAR – 1129 RAR – 0.14 RAR/AB
.274/.360/.451 – 350 home runs – 1,372 RBI’s
37.2 WAR – 39.3 oWAR – 366 RAR – 0.04 RAR/AB
.287/.359/.476 – 504 home runs – 1,917 RBI’s
66.7 WAR – 60.2 oWAR – 643 RAR – 0.06 RAR/AB
.305/.403/.533 – 448 home runs – 1,547 RBI’s
82.1 WAR – 84.1 oWAR – 811 RAR – 0.10 RAR/AB
.287/.366/.489 – 314 home runs – 1,092 RBI’s
63.4 WAR – 54.8 oWAR – 589 RAR – 0.08 RAR/AB
Based solely on the stats above, not name recognition, I’ll rank these power hitting switch-hitters in order.
1) Player B
2) Player E
3) Player D
4) Lance Berkman
5) Player A
6) Player F
7) Player C
Finally, let’s reveal the company Lance Berkman keeps in his career as a switch-hitter with power.
1) Mickey Mantle
2) Chipper Jones
3) Eddie Murray
4) Lance Berkman
5) Bernie Williams
6) Reggie Smith
7) Chili Davis
There are obviously some great switch-hitters I left off the list. Pete Rose is right up there with Mickey Mantle as the best all-time, and Roberto Alomar should make an appearance on any all-encompassing list, but this list was focused solely on power hitters. With that requirement, you can see Lance Berkman has done very well for himself in his career. Of the seven players I have him ranked with, two are in the Hall of Fame, one is a lock when he retires, and a couple are just on the outside looking in.
Again, I do not think Lance Berkman is a Hall of Famer, especially if he does in fact retire after this season (which I do not think he will, no matter what team he goes to). Yet, he is one of the best switch hitters of all-time.
*All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference