First of all, thanks to Joe and Timmy for breaking this story.
Richard Justice's take on the situation can be found here.
Of course we're bummed, but this is the hand that fate has dealt us. Where do the Astros go from here?
Edwin Maysonet has been called up to join fellow Round Rock staple Matt Kata on the big league roster. Maysonet did fairly well in his 19 games as an Astro earlier this season, totaling a .315/.356/.763 line in just 54 ABs. He can play all over the infield, and is a plus defender at second at third. He won't come close to replacing Lance Berkman, but nobody can. In terms of wOBA, Lance's fifteen day departure leaves a gaping hole in the infield:
Miguel Tejada, wOBA= .356
Jeff Keppinger, wOBA= .323
Kaz Matsui, wOBA= .289
Geoff Blum, wOBA= .316
Matt Kata, wOBA=.179
Edwin Maysonet, wOBA= .337
Chris Coste, wOBA= .319
Lance Berkman, wOBA= .397
Considering how .340 is roughly average for a major leaguer, this is not a pretty picture. We know that Kepp and Blum get on base at a nice clip, but wOBA tells us that they do so with mostly singles. Kaz is just now creeping out a season long slump, so expect his numbers to rise in the coming weeks. Matt Kata does not need to be on a major league roster, especially one missing their best offensive player. Berkman's replacement, Maysonet, is a league average player right now, but he probably can't sustain that kind of production this season given the amount of at bat's he's almost sure to amass during Berkman's time on the pine.
What could make these next few weeks a bit more bearable? Well for one thing, substituting John Gall or Mark Saccomano for Matt Kata would help. Yes, I realize that Cecil Cooper loves him some Kata because he's got "experience" and "versatility", but he won't be helping at all offensively. As I was reminded, neither Gall nor Saccomano are on the 40 man roster which means they are not eligible to play for the Astros as of now. With the glove, he is adequate at second base. However, the Astros already struggle mightily with hitting for extra bases, and Saccomano and Gall would both offer better options than Kata in that regard. What's more- Maysonet offers a similar skill package as Kata, but is better in most every aspect of the game- getting on base, hitting for power, defene and baserunning. Matt Kata is a superflous player on this roster. Jason Michaels inexplicably takes up a roster spot, and now so does Kata.
I don't want to lay all of the Astros' problems at Matt Kata's feet, but in a time as important as this, he just doesn't stand to help the cause. Perhaps it was fortuitous, a GM's intuition, or both that led Ed Wade to sign Chris Coste. He was a nice story for the Phillies, but now he has to be more than that for the Astros. Expect him to face left handers with regularity, as his career numbers indicate he produces well against them. Jeff Keppinger should remain the designated third basemen when facing lefties, while Geoff Blum can fill in at first sparingly.
Reality has hit Astros' fans square in the face today. If nothing else, these next few weeks are going to be interesting, if not season defining. Mr. Santana will greet them on the other side..