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Lance Berkman Wins NL Comeback Player of the Year

I have facts. Former Houston Astros slugger Lance Berkman was traded last summer to the New York Yankees, became a free agent, contacted Astros GM Ed Wade about returning to the team, was turned down, signed a huge deal with the St. Louis Cardinals, had a even bigger season as he returned to home run-hitting form, led the Cards to the playoffs and finally won NL Comeback Player of the Year.

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Those facts are irrefutable. I'm not going to attempt to go there, but I am going to tackle two different questions. First, should Houston have resigned Berkman last summer? The Big Puma was credited with 5.0 fWAR this season and Houston first basemen had 3.0 fWAR total. Of course, one of those first basemen as Carlos Lee, who alternated between left field and first base. So, if we credit him there, we have to also take into account J.D. Martinez' stats, who accumulated 1.5 fWAR. So, the difference between a Berkman Astros team and a non-Berkman Astros team was about half a win.

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It's not that simple to forecast changes. Having Berkman in the lineup changes everything about Houston's team. It's hard to quantify all the little impacts he would have made, especially on the younger players after Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn were traded. Would Houston have continued to play well down the stretch? Would they have been swept in so many weekend series? 

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It also didn't make sense because the Astros were not willing to give up on Brett Wallace last winter. They quickly got there after a few months, but they were not there yet in December. Berkman would have certainly blocked Wallace, but spending a whole season at Triple-A might have boosted Wallace's stock and allowed the Astros to trade him this season to make room for Jonathan Singleton.

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Berkman would not have made a huge impact on the team, but he would have been marketable in this lost season. That's worth something, right?

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Images by eflon used in background images under a Creative Commons license. Thank you.