|Have we seen the last of Lance Berkman? (Getty Images)|
Berkman has played in just 31 games this season, but he's managed a strong batting line of .263/.385/.450. He originally underwent surgery to repair his right meniscus in late May and returned to the active roster in mid-July. However, inflammation in that same knee forced Berkman back to the DL at the beginning of August, and he hasn't been able to regain his health since.
As Strauss points out, this could mean the end of Berkman's playing career. The 36-year-old isn't under contract for 2013, and he's previously said how difficult it is to coax his ailing legs into playing shape these days. If this is indeed the end for Berkman, then he leaves the game with a compelling hall-of-fame case: OPS+ of 146 (good for 47th place on the all-time list); 360 homers; 412 doubles; 1,163 walks; 1,200 RBI; 1,119 runs scored; 3,393 total bases; 3,072 times on base; and 801 extra-base hits.
How likely is he to make it? Historical standards suggest he'll fall a bit short. Baseball historian Bill James developed four "tests" to evaluate a players Cooperstown case based on the benchmarks and threshholds that the Hall's caretakers tend to prioritize (the wondrous Baseball-Reference.com has a good explanation of each method). Here's how Berkman stacks up according to James's four tests (image courtesy of Baseball-Reference):
As you can see, Berkman, despite an outstanding career, falls a bit shy of what's generally expected of a hall of famer. On a rate basis, he's definitely good enough, but his "counting stats" aren't quite where they need to be, at least to satisfy the voters' preferences. With that said, Berkman's reputation as a great teammate and affable media presence might help him with voters. All this, of course, assumes Berkman won't play again.
As for the Cardinals' immediate concerns, while you can always use a hitter like Berkman, first base these days belongs to the hard-hitting Allen Craig.