Lance Berkman (William Lance Berkman) was born on February 10, 1976 in Waco, Texas. He made his Major League debut on July 16, 1999 for the Houston Astros. In 2000, his rookie year, he hit .297 with 21 home runs and 67 RBI. Berkman played for the Houston Astros for his entire 8 year career.
Most people believe that Lance Berkman's best season was 2001, when he slugged 34 home runs, hit for a .331 average and knocked in 126 runs.
Berkman is a switch hitter that excels in hitting the ball to the opposite field. He is stronger batting left-handed and uses the short fence in left field at Minute Maid Park often.
Berkman is one of the best, if not the best, switch-hitter in the game today. He has a great eye at the plate and rarely gets himself out, forcing opposing pitchers to work at retiring him. While it's no secret he fares better as a left-handed hitter, he's made strides from the right side of the plate in recent seasons.
As a left-handed hitter he has power to all fields and is just as adept at lining doubles into the gaps as he is at popping the ball out of any part of any ballpark. He has excellent bat control and is willing to hit the ball where it's pitched, making him an extremely dangerous hitter.
As a right-handed hitter he has as much raw power as any hitter in the game but has a hard time translating it to the field. Early in his career he struggled so much from the right side that there was talk that he should stick to hitting left-handed, but he's recently squashed those talks. He's become more adept at going to right field but his home run power remains almost strictly to left. When he does get ahold of one he can hit some tape measure shots.
Like any hitter, Berkman does have his weaknesses. He will chase high fastballs in almost any count and tends to chase pitches in the dirt when behind in the count. He has a hole inside when batting left-handed, but pitchers have to be nearly perfect when trying to hit that spot or he will punish the ball.
Baserunning and Defense
Tearing his ACL prior to the 2005 season might have actually helped Berkman on the bases. The injury caused him to slim down and lose weight, making him a little quicker on his feet after he fully recovered from the injury. He was never a burner but his speed is slightly above average. He'll never be a stolen base threat as his baserunning instincts leave something to be desired. He's essentially a station-to-station runner.
Defensively, Berkman has been moved around quite a bit in his career. He played first base in college and throughout his minor league career but had to be moved due to Astros legend Jeff Bagwell being entrenched at that position. He was mostly relegated to the corner outfield spots where he was serviceable, but was forced into center field in 2002, where every fly ball was an adventure with him. When Bagwell's arthritic right shoulder cost him his career early in the 2005 season, Berkman took over at first base and figures to stick there for the rest of his career.
Berkman has quickly readjusted to first base. He's a very quick fielder with soft hands and is great at digging low throws. His days in the outfield seem to have served him well as he shows tremendous range at the position. His arm is about average for right field and is therefore pretty strong for a first baseman.
- Selected by Houston Astros in the 1st round (16th pick overall) of the free-agent draft (June 3, 1997 - signed June 4, 1997).
He attended Rice University, where he was named the 1997 National College Player of the Year, playing for the legendary Wayne Graham, as well as named a first team All-America by Collegiate Baseball Magazine, Baseball America and The Sporting News. He was invited to visit the White House and dine with President Clinton along with the rest of the Baseball America honorees.
Lance has had the nickname "Fat Elvis" for several years, after an ESPN the Magazine interview in which he stated that his mother thought he looked like Elvis. Lance Zierlein asked him, "the fat one or the skinny one," to which he answered, "I guess the fat one." Additionally, in 2005, he was given the short-lived nickname "Berkwell" once he took over Jeff Bagwell's first base position.
He is now most popularly known as the "The Big Puma." During the offseason in early 2008, Berkman did an interview on a local Houston sports station, 1560 The Game. The interviewer jokingly asked Lance to coin a new nickname for himself. He sarcasticly responded that he played baseball like a puma, that is, he is fierce, sleek, and powerful, yet quick on his feet. And despite its comedic origins, the fans and media have latched onto "The Big Puma" and it now seems to be firmly entrenched as Berkman's nickname.