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11/17/08 4:34 PM EST

Berkman finishes fifth in MVP voting

Astros star's cool finish after hot start keeps him from ultimate prize

Lance Berkman put together one half of an MVP season. However, a pedestrian second half took him out of the mix for the award.

Berkman finished fifth in the National League Most Valuable Player Award voting, released Monday, with 126 points. Albert Pujols won the MVP for the second time with 369 points, followed by Ryan Howard (308), Ryan Braun (139), Manny Ramirez (138) and Berkman to round out the top five. Like Braun and Ramirez, Berkman received no first-place votes but did get a pair of second-place votes. Berkman's name appeared on 23 of 32 ballots.

Astros closer Jose Valverde, who led the NL with 44 saves, received one eighth-place vote, chiming in at 25th place overall. Brad Lidge, who took eighth, was the only other relief pitcher listed on a ballot.

For Berkman, it marked the fifth top 10 in MVP balloting in his 10-year career. He last received votes in 2006, finishing third to match his career-best placement. Jeff Bagwell remains the only Astros player to win the MVP. He did it in the strike-shortened 1994 season.

Berkman, 32, went crazy in the first half of 2008. He won two Player of the Week honors, a Player of the Month award in May and even had a 5-for-5 game. Going into the All-Star break, he was hitting .347 with 22 home runs and 73 RBIs, all top-10 numbers in the NL. Add in 15 stolen bases, and Berkman beat out Pujols in fan voting to start in the All-Star Game.

Berkman's NL MVP voting history
2001Fifth125Barry Bonds
2002Third181Barry Bonds
2004Seventh100Barry Bonds
200514th21Albert Pujols
2006Third230Ryan Howard
2008Fifth 126Albert Pujols

While his teammates took off in the second half, Berkman fell back to earth. He hit .259 with seven home runs and 33 RBIs after the break, including a .171 September.

Berkman is 12 homers shy of 300, 51 hits away from 1,500 and 39 RBIs short of 1,000. He should reach all of those milestones in the first half of 2009 and possibly many more in an Astros uniform. Houston has him locked up through 2010, with a club option for 2011.

Nick Zaccardi is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.