It Hurts to Say It: The Case for Lance Berkman for MVP
All right. This is really, really going to hurt me to say, but I figure I just need to do it quickly, like ripping off a bandage. Get it out there in the open. Here goes.
Lance Berkman should win the MVP award this year.
Oh, God. What have I done? How am I going to live with myself?
Last Night: One of the cleanest games you're ever going to see played. The pitching was crisp on both sides (after of the first inning by Oswalt) and the defense more than held up its end of the bargain. When Berkman came up leading off the ninth inning, Ryan Franklin had a two-run cushion to work with, which was nice, since he didn't have to try and be too very careful with Fat Elvis. He could afford to challenge Berkman, with no fear that he could potentially tie the game. Franklin did, in fact, challenge Berkman.
Elvis sent a screaming, 425-foot line drive out to dead center field, bringing the Astros to within one. Luckily, Franklin locked down and retired the next three batters in order to preserve the win, but Berkman definitely beat him. It was his 18th home run of the season, and continued an absolutely ridiculous tear -- Berkman has been ripping.
For about the past month, Berkman has been just about unstoppable. In one stretch earlier this month, he went 31-50. That's a .620 batting average over about fifteen games. That's absolutely unheard of.
At the beginning of May, the Astros found themselves looking up at most of the other teams in the National League Central, right where I had expected them to be. Since then, they've been on fire, steadily moving up in the standings. They currently sit just two-and-a-half games back of the first-place Cubs, and haven't had to pad their record by playing Pittsburgh twelve times, either.
I don't think it's any kind of coincidence that the Astros' hot streak coincides almost exactly with that of Berkman. He's the engine that powers that lineup. Don't get me wrong, it's a very good lineup top to bottom, with Tejada, Lee, and Pence all making big contributions, but it's Berkman that really makes that thing go.
As good of a season as Albert Pujols is having, I just can't see any way that you could pick him over Berkman at the moment. Of course, this may all end up being academic. Either one of them could end up getting injured and not even being in the conversation at the end of the season. But even if Berkman levels off and just puts up average numbers for himself the rest of the year, he's still going to end up with absolutely monstrous totals.
Berkman has been in the Top Five in votes for MVP three different times. Did you know that? I certainly didn't. I know the guy's good, because he's constantly kicking us around, but he may just be the quietest superstar in baseball. I just can't get around it. As of right now, Lance Berkman is the NL MVP. If the Astros somehow manage to sneak into the playoffs, I think Berkman is the main reason. Even if they don't, I think he needs to get serious consideration. This is a team that's contending despite having absolutely nothing on the pitching side beyond the Ghost of Roy Oswalt. It's a good lineup, yes, but that doesn't change the fact that Berkman is having a truly transcendent season to this point.
Lance Berkman for MVP. There, I've said it.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go take a shower.