For about a month in 2013, Lance Berkman was putting up numbers at the plate like the Lance Berkman in his prime — he was elite.
Remember when the Texas Rangers designated hitter turned back the clock on his 37 years of age and came out of the gate firing on all cylinders, posting a .319/.449/.486 triple slash on a .368 BABIP despite a well below-average 13.6 line drive rate and a very poor 19.2 percent infield fly rate?
There’s a thing about the cruelty of the baseball gods — they giveth and taketh away.
After giving the aging slugger a taste of the fountain of youth, they’ve now instead replaced it with a harsh dose of reality; and that, of course, is the fact that this is a 37-year old former slugger who is nowhere near his prime and in the twilight of his career … which is to say, in the nicest of ways, that he isn’t that good.
These days, though, he’s been worse than that.
After putting on yet another 0-for-4 performance on Tuesday for the second game in a row, Berkman is officially in a slump, hitting just .167/.273/.229 through 55 PA in June headed into Wednesday’s play. Considering his ground ball rates have climbed (42.2, 45.5 and 51.4 percent) in each month from April to June, it’s no much of a surprise that his BABIP is now at a season-low .194, falling in line with his very poor 8.6 line drive rate.
Which is to say that luck is simply no longer on his side, that’s all.
Then again, with a strikeout rate that has spiked for three straight months: 14.6, 17.3, 20.0 percent, it’s not as though the veteran is going all that much to help himself either.
Chance isn’t something that is usually explained in a straightforward way in numbers when it comes to hitting because there are simply too many factors that can be looked at when looking for an answer for a given performance, but for Berkman, it’s basically about as straightforward as it gets.
That’s not to say that the Rangers will necessarily be having to deal with a non-quantity on offense over the rest of the season, though. Slump and all, Berkman is still showing that he has the patience as he’s swinging at a career-low 38 percent rate and whiffing just 8.3 percent of the time. If anything else, he’s still capable of putting the ball in play.
What it does mean, on the other hand, is that if they’re hoping he’s going to be a primary contributor on offense for the rest of the season, they might want to start making contingency plans … or get him a whole lot of good luck charms.