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Astros Midweek Roundup: Jeff Bagwell, The Fall Of A Franchise Icon?

It has not been a great week for Jeff Bagwell, but has for J.A. Happ.

HOUSTON - AUGUST 30:  Houston Astros hitting coach Jeff Bagwell #5 looks on from the dugout at Minute Maid Park during a game against the St. Louis Cardinals on August 30 2010 in Houston Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
HOUSTON - AUGUST 30: Houston Astros hitting coach Jeff Bagwell #5 looks on from the dugout at Minute Maid Park during a game against the St. Louis Cardinals on August 30 2010 in Houston Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
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Trials and tribulations of Jeff Bagwell

When Jeff Bagwell turned down a contract extension as hitting coach in October 2010 we wondered whether he wanted to spend more time with his family. It now appears his wife Erica filed for divorce in September 2010. 

The defense in the trial that saw Dr Michael Brown facing assault charges against his wife Rachel Brown subpoenaed Bagwell to appear, but he has apparently gone into hiding. Brown was found not guilty yesterday, but in the trial it was alleged that Rachel Brown was having an affair with ex-Astro Bagwell. Wonderful. It is going to be a lot easier to convince baseball writers to vote Bagwell into the HOF with this hanging over him (heavy sarcasm). Has this changed your opinion of Bagwell? Get in touch

J.A. Happ, changed man

Going back and watching the entirety of his last start against the Cincinnati Reds, where he struck out nine batters, I was really impressed how he straightened out his fastball and just nailed the spots Humbero Quintero was setting up for him. 

Statistically Happ is always going to be a flyball pitcher (43.6% career flyballs), and he is probably always going to have a high BB/9 ratio (4.07 on his major league career). But even then he has shown he can be effective enough despite that on a major league roster. He has been burned in 2011 by a steep drop in GB% and LOB%.

Comparing his last start out to one of his poorer outings of the season it is clear he has found the outside corner of the plate to right handers, and was really nailing both inside and outside through his outing. He mostly threw fastballs, 75 in all, a much higher proportion than in previous starts. He got 11 swinging strikes on his fastball, with many hitters swinging way over the fastball. This may be due to better location, keeping the ball down. As was mentioned in the broadcast, the Reds hitters had not taken batting practice due to heavy rain before the game, which may have contributed to some poor swings on the night. 

Apart from a leadoff home run from Brandon Phillips and a tough 36 pitch second inning, Happ did pretty well on the night. I think better pitch calling might  have also contributed towards the success as far too often earlier in the season Happ would just alternate between fastball and breaking ball. 

He has succeeded, putting up a 2.40 ERA since being called back to the majors, but he has done that with a .208 BABIP, which will surely rise pretty steeply. He's also cut down on the line drive rate, and has more pop ups than he had earlier this year. However, considering his ERA was 6.26 in the first 22 starts, then something has obviously changed. If he can put an ERA of around 4 on the board, I'd call that a win.

What to do with the misfits Chris Johnson and Brett Wallace

Both were regarded as integral to the baseball club's future at the start of the season, but less than spectacular seasons from both of them have put them in some sort of purgatory. Despite killing the ball in Oklahoma City (.356/.437/.481), Wallace has a grand total of one start, yes one start, since being recalled. Yes, Carlos Lee is having a decent September, and this is a pretty good indicator that he will get the majority of playing time at first next season, but if so, should we just ship Wallace off to Oakland while we might still get a C prospect for him? Were Wallace to go to Oakland, I guarantee they would get some value out of him.

It does not help that both are wretched in the field. Jimmy Paredes is still raw and the front office may start him off in Oklahoma City, just to give him a few months to sharpen his game, which could lead Matt Downs to some solid playing time. I'd be cool with Downs getting regular if not everyday playing time at third base next season. He could be the next Jeff Keppinger for years to come, and has earned the opportunity through this season's .378 wOBA. 

Images by eflon used in background images under a Creative Commons license. Thank you.