Sunday, July 11, 2010

Berry reassigned, Bagwell to take over

It's not often you get an email in church that makes you go, "Whoa!" in the middle of the Lord's Supper. But that's exactly what happened this morning.

Alyson Footer first broke this morning that Sean Berry has been relieved of his duties as Astros "hitting" coach, and Jeff Bagwell is in uniform and will be in the dugout today.

First, some thoughts:

*Hopefully Bagwell will run his finger over his throat at Mark McGwire at some point during today's game.

*Sean Berry deserves a lot of the blame for how terrible the Astros have been. But not all of it. Footer and Ed Wade both said that Berry was one of the hardest-working and most-prepared coaches they had seen. We don't see how much he works with the "hitters" (and yes, I use that term loosely). He can work with the players for ten or twelve hours after the game, preventing them from sleeping or seeing their families. But when it's game time, he can't make Carlos Lee chase a ball halfway down the first base line.

*Ed Wade (it's a multi-tweet quote, so just go to Footer's feed for the whole thing):
In 34 years in baseball I think Sean was the best prepared hitting coach I've been around. But the results speak for themselves. We need to figure this out. Not just the front office level, but the players level as well. Sean has become somewhat of a victim of circumstance this year because of the fact that our offense has struggled.... We know we're not the '27 Yankees. But we're better than this. And if we're not better than this, we need to use the time remaining to assess the talent on the club and act accordingly. A lot of this falls to the players."

Let's evaluate. From 2007-last night's game, the Astros had hit:
2007: (1457x5605) .260/.330/.412 - 2311 total bases
2008: (1432x5451) .263/.323/.415 - 2261 total bases
2009: (1415x5436) .260/.319/.400 - 2175 total bases
2010: (691x2916) .237/.295/.348 - 1015 total bases

That works out to be 4995x19408, or a .257 average and a .400 SLG percentage. Maybe some time soon we'll get the OBP, but not right now, because I'm too amped up to do any more math. But what we really need to see is that, in his best year, the Astros topped out at a .330 on-base percentage. The Astros are last in walks in 2010, with 233, or 2.64 per game.

For a significant portion of the season we ran a '62 Mets watch. And when you're comparing your offense - in every way unfavorably - to one of the worst teams of all time, something had to be done. And the Astros aren't going to fire Carlos Lee.

(And for the record, through 88 games, the '62 Mets were hitting .238/.318/.361).

Wade is right, Berry is a victim of circumstance, and the Astros just got a guy fired. Berry has been given the opportunity to stay on in a development role within the organization, but hasn't decided if he'll accept.

So now we get to Jeff Bagwell as hitting coach. This is more of a functional role, as opposed to a figurehead role for Bagwell. It may sell some tickets, though I don't know who buys tickets to see the hitting coach (unless Bagwell donkey kicks Carlos Lee out of the cage and shows him how it's done). But Bagwell has been around a lot of the guys the Astros will ideally be bringing up as a special assistant to the GM for the past four years.

Yet we do know that Bagwell is a career .297/.408/.540 hitter. Shut your sloppy mouth about doing steroids or crouching in the box. Bagwell is a consummate professional, and represents a bridge from the past to the future. Footer says he'll sign on for the rest of the season, and be re-evaluated at the end of the season.

Does it guarantee success? Hell, and no, it doesn't. The Cardinals are hitting .260 as a team (7th in the NL) in McGwire's first season as hitting coach, though their .745 OPS is 5th in the National League.

But it generates some excitement, and makes things a little interesting, and certainly brings a face to the bench who has experience in dealing with Chris Johnson, Jason Castro, Hunter Pence, and those who will arrive in 2011-2012.