In Pants Or Not, Berkman Keeps Hitting

May 19, 2008 | Comments (0) | by Rich Funk

At first it was hard for me to take Lance Berkman seriously. It wasn't really his fault. Sure, he does kind of look like a backwoods hick (It doesn't help that he plays for the Astros) and he may be a little chubby, but you can say that about a lot of baseball players.

The reason that I couldn't take Lance Berkman seriously was because of my mom. For most of my life, she has referred to anyone named Lance as "Lance-In-The-Pants". The Cubs centerfielder during their magical 1998 season? Lance-In-The-Pants Johnson. The dude that won all of those bike races? Lance-In-The-Pants Armstrong. Hell, I worked with a guy for a summer named Lance, and even he wasn't safe from the nickname.

So when Lance Berkman had his breakout year for the Astros in 2001, I never took him seriously. To me, he was just another member in the "In-The-Pants" family. It didn't help that I drank the Pants Berkman Kool-Aid before last season and got stuck with his terrible first half in my fantasy baseball season. It's not that I've always thought Lance Berkman was bad, I just didn't pay much attention to him.

Through the 1/4 point of this season, I am definitely paying attention. I am legitimately scared of Lance Berkman.

Berkman has been on a tear. He's face-meltingly, crotch-kickingly hot right now. Check out his stats for the month of May:

Batting Average: .565
SLG: 1.065
OPS: 1.690

Here's some perspective: remember that crazy June in 1998 where Sammy Sosa set a record by hitting 20 homers in a month? He only slugged .842 and had an OPS of 1.173 that month. Probably most impressive is in the 16 games he's played month, Berkman has at least one hit. In only 4 of those games did he have only 1 hit. The other 12 were multi-hit games.

With Berkman and the 'Stros hosting the Cubs for 3 starting tonight, things may seem bleak. But all is not lost. Sure, Berkman has had a crazy month, but all of his May games have been played against the Brewers, Nationals, Dodgers, Giants and Rangers, teams not really known for their stellar pitching. Those teams have a combined record of 100-122.

The key to beating the Astros right now is shutting down Berkman. During Lance's 17 game hit streak, the Astros are 12-5, but were just 13-15 before that. And in games where Berkman goes hitless, Houston is 2-7.

With Cy Lilly on the mound tonight, hopefully we can get a few strikeouts out of Mr. Berkman. If we can't get him out over the next three games, it's not going to matter what kind of pants Lance wears...we'll be in for a world of hurt.