Zach Levine has an interesting, and by "interesting" I, of course, mean "Depressing" look at the lineup should Berkman miss Opening Day and beyond.
McTaggart has Matsui batting second and Feliz batting fifth, to which Levine responds:
The point is that although I think McTaggart nailed where the Astros will go with it, this lineup is unsightly. This appears, naturally, considerably worse than the lineup that was third worst in the league last year.
With Berkman back in the lineup, Levine proposes putting Pence in the #2 hole, Castro/Towles hitting fifth, and the pitcher hitting 8th.
It also asks too much of the young catcher to protect Carlos Lee from walks, but I'd almost rather Castro or Towles do it than Feliz.
Towles projects for an OPS 20 points higher than Feliz according to Baseball Prospectus, and Castro will at least have his handedness to offset some of the pitch-around tendency against a righty.
Whatever happens, and I currently have all the faith in the world in Brad Mills that he'll put something together that makes sense, but the Berkman injury takes 2010 to a different level.
If Berkman comes back healthy - and there's no reason to think that he won't - and struggles, then the decision to pick up his 2011 option becomes easier. If he is injury riddled, and struggles, then it's a little bit more difficult. I would imagine that, unless Berkman hits .320 with 35 HRs and 120 RBI, Wade would lean towards the buyout, and then bringing him back at a reduced rate. Because after last year's numbers, and presuming a down year, he's not a $15 million player.
I also think that we, as Astros fans, are prepared for a down year, but not for this reason. There is no clear back-up plan for life without Lance.