The Texas Rangers will ask new designated hitter Lance Berkman, who signed a one-year deal with an option for 2014, to replace Josh Hamilton in the batting order.
Manager Ron Washington said he expects Berkman will be his No. 3 hitter, with third baseman Adrian Beltre remaining the cleanup hitter and right fielder Nelson Cruz batting fifth. The hope is that Berkman, who won't clear the bases with the frequency Hamilton did, will give Beltre a better opportunity to do so.
Over the five years that Hamilton was in Texas, he compiled a .363 OBP and a .912 on-base-plus-slugging percentage. In the same five years, Berkman, who had 41 fewer homers, had a .401 OBP and .913 OPS. In addition, Berkman saw more pitches per plate appearance: an average of 3.9 vs. Hamilton's 3.66.
With new hitting instructor Dave Magadan, the Rangers plan to stress plate discipline even more.
"He takes very good at-bats," Washington said of Berkman. "His experience will help. He will do it on the field, but he won't just do it there. He will do it by word of mouth and through his experience. Guys will gravitate to him."
With the exception of Berkman replacing Hamilton in the No. 3 spot, Washington said he expects the top five spots in the lineup to remain the same. Second baseman Ian Kinsler will lead off, followed by shortstop Elvis Andrus, Berkman, Beltre and Cruz.
As a switch-hitter, Berkman could also help force opposing managers into making some tough choices ahead of Beltre. Berkman is better from the left side of the plate, so if a manager chooses to stick with a right-hander after facing Kinsler and Andrus, it plays to Berkman's strengths.
If the opponent turns to a lefty, he will be facing a guy with a career .362 OBP vs. lefties compared to Hamilton's .327. And the manager would then have to turn back to a right-handed reliever to face Beltre.