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The Case for Lance Berkman for March Madness Finals

It’s Berkman vs Wagner. The Astros’ best all-time outfielder vs the Astros’ best all-time closer. Vote for Berkman.

If for no other reason, you should vote for Lance Berkman for this.

Yes, it was the Big Puma who made the greatest defensive play in the history of the Astros. Almost like Willie Mays.

But of course, what Lance is best known for is slugging. There’s only one other player in the history of the Astros better, and he was a fellow member of the Killer B’s.

Or was he better? Here’s Jeff Bagwell’s slash line: .297/.408/.540. 948 OPS, 149 OPS+

This is Lance Berkman’s Astros slash line.............. 296/.409/545. 954 OPS, 145 OPS+

In case you didn’t notice, these two lines are almost identical.

Of course, Bagwell had the edge in counting stats, 449 home runs to Berkman’s 366, 326 as an Astro, (2nd all-time for Astros) but that is entirely due to more career PAs. Berkman actually had more homers per PA. Berkman had one homer per 20.59 PAs. Bagwell had to wait 21 PAs before getting a homer.

Suffice to say, that during his more limited time with the Astros, Lance Berkman was arguably as good a hitter as the Hall of Famer Jeff Bagwell. His five All-Star appearances as an Astro, six career, tops Bagwell’s four. And according to Fangraphs, he is third all-time on the Astros in WAR at 51.5.

He was a post-season warrior, leading the Astros in the 2004 run for the National League pennant that ended in a game 7 loss to the Cardinals, and leading the team in its 2005 playoff run that took the Astros to its first World Series. In the 2004 NLDS and NLCS his OPS was 1.071 and 1.150 respectively. In the 2005 run he hit 1.143 in the NLDS, .924 in the NLCS, and 1.065 in the World Series. Berkman’s 2.7 playoff Win Probability Added is the third highest all-time. Berkman was glorious when it really mattered the most.

Here is Lance with a Grand Slam in the 8th inning of the 2005 ALDS against the Atlanta Braves. It brought the Astros to within one run. Yeah, it’s the game the Astros won in 18 innings.

Of course, in our March Madness, Berkman is competing against Billy Wagner for your votes, not Jeff Bagwell. I only mention Bagwell because he is the recognized gold standard in Astros position player history.

But Berkman is competing against a relief pitcher, the best in Astros history. It’s a classic case of comparing apples and oranges.

But clearly, Lance Berkman did more to make the Astros winners than Wagner. Pretty straightforward. Wagner accrued 13.4 fWAR as an Astro, Berkman 51.5. Even accounting for the fact that WAR discriminates against relievers, that is a huge discrepancy.

The third of the killer B’s, during his 11+ years as an Astro, he was every bit the equal of his comrade B’s, Bagwell and Biggio. You can’t beat that

Vote Lance Berkman.

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