A few players bounce back as the pads stay on for another day

11 observations from Texans training camp, July 28

@edclarke03/Eddie Clarke

If you missed the Saturday July 27 observations you can find them here

Good day for Tytus

Texans OL Tytus Howard at Training Camp 2019

@edclarke03/Eddie Clarke

Tytus Howard had a very nice day. He worked a lot with some of the veterans getting an off day. The most impressive rep was him stoning D.J. Reader and stopping the veteran defensive lineman cold in his tracks. He had some nice reps against other rushers too. He even earned a measure of revenge on Joel Heath after Heath won some reps in the first padded practice. He moved around really well too getting out and leading the charge on a few blocks.

Miller's the leader

Lamar Miller at Texans Training Camp 2019

@Cody_Stoots/Cody Stoots

Lamar Miller is the best running back in camp for the Texans and it isn't even close. That shouldn't surprise you. What may surprise you is this might be the best version of Lamar Miller the Texans have ever seen. Going into his third year in Houston last year Miller slimmed up a little. This year I would say he is trimmed up. Not smaller, but lighter was the way he spoke about his body. His level of scoot, if you will, is the best I have seen it.

Concerns about Foreman

​Running back D'Onta Foreman has done a great job getting his body ready for camp. He hasn't done a great job being a running back yet. He did not have a good drill when the backs were practicing pass blocking against defensive backs. He struggled and didn't even see any premier pass rushers while doing so. A few of his movements were sluggish. With a break coming up soon how he finishes the week will be something to monitor.

More Moore

A.J. Moore was singled out by head coach Bill O'Brien on Sunday as a player who is a special teams contributor and thouroughly relishes the opportunities. Well, Moore is getting it done on defense too. He has had a strong camp. Today while watching a blocking drill Moore came running by in our sight line with the ball. I was confused at first until I realized he had run a pick-six back from his drill down the field.

Pushing for a spot

Former Oklahoma State wideout Tyron Johnson had a really solid first day and then a couple of decent days. He was back to a good day today showcasing his various talents. He has a chance to force the Texans into keeping six wide receivers on this roster. He has strong hounds, is physical, and seems to pick things up with ease. It is worth noting, before ending up at Oklahoma State he was a five-star recruit who picked LSU.

Under the radar push up front

Carlos Watkins and Angelo Blackson had a few nice plays on Sunday. They are a part of a room that has some severe competition if you'd like to stick around the Texans. Albert Huggins who was at Clemson last year had a nice play that caught my eye as well. There is a lot of talent in the defensive line room. This could be one of the most competitive units on the team.

Not as Scharping

Offensive lineman Max Scharping had a day that left something to be desired. He struggled with extending his arms and really getting into defenders. One play it took him a second to establish his grip but once he got set and could plant he slowed the rusher down. Unfortunately for him he was deep into the pocket by then.

Watt a monster, just like we like it

J.J. Watt worked today but nothing looked like work for him. He took a few strolls to the QB or the dummy posing as the QB today. Veterans and rookies alike had no shot against Watt. This isn't shocking but just your reminder we are witnessing one of the all-time greats.

Gilly bounces back

Fullback Cullen Gillaspia had a much better day today in pads. He held his own in the individual blocking drills looking very strong. I was worried after Saturday where he looked a little over matched but he handled his challenges today in the drills well. When he gets to working against linemen and linebackers he will need every ounce of his being to make sure he nails the assignments on them. He did whiff on one block in a team play that should have been and easy one for him to finish but it was a much better day today for him. He is smooth running routes.

Play of the day

Jordan Akins and Deshaun Watson hooked up for two magnificent plays back-to-back. The first saw Akins sky into the air and rip down a Watson bullet with one hand to move the chains for a huge gain. The very next play Watson put it right on Akins and away from the defender for a score. It was an amazing throw both times, showcasing Watson's pinpoint accuracy.

Quote of the day

Karan Higdon at Texans Training Camp 2019

@edclarke03/Eddie Clarke

"It's wide open."

Texans Head Coach Bill O'Brien talking about the team's running back spots after Lamar Miller. There are a lot of names, and maybe even some not on the roster, to fill our the two spots behind Miller.

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Here's what the data tells us about Bregman. Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

Alex Bregman had a rough season in 2020 by his standards. He slashed .242/.350/.451 in 42 regular season games. His regular season included a trip to the 10-day IL for a hamstring strain he suffered in mid-August. His surface-level struggles continued in the postseason, where he slashed .220/.316/.300 in 13 games. However, that postseason sample size does include a tough luck game against the Tampa Bay Rays where he went 0-for-5 with five hard hit balls.

All-in-all, 2020 felt like a lost season for Bregman. He never really got going. He got off to a slow start, but he's always been a slow starter. Once he started to pick it up, he strained his hamstring, and he played poorly after returning from the hamstring strain. Then, he started to turn his batted ball quality around in the playoffs, but he hit into a lot of tough luck outs.

Hard Hit % - 33.6%

Barrel % - 3.9%

K% - 14.4%

BB% - 13.3%

Chase % - 18.1%

Bregman comes from the Michael Brantley school of hitters. He has elite plate discipline and elite bat-to-ball skills. This makes Bregman a fairly consistent hitter. That may sound odd considering his 2020 "struggles" but even an extended period of poor performance for him resulted in a .801 OPS and a 122 wRC+. If his valleys are still 22% better than the league average hitter, then that's a pretty reliable producer.

There aren't any alarming trends in Bregman's statistics. Yes, his K% was slightly up, his BB% is slightly down, but it isn't a massive difference in either category. His Chase % was up, but again, 18.1% is elite discipline. The biggest drop was in his Hard Hit%, where he fell from 38% to 33.6%. Even so, his average exit velocity only dropped .4 MPH, so there's not really a catastrophic trend here.

His .254 BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) was low, but he's never put up really high BABIP numbers. In fact, his BABIP has gotten worse every year of his career, from .317 to .311 to .289 to .281 to .254. While his BABIP will likely spike back up next year, it isn't enough to be the difference between the 2019 and 2020 versions of himself. His xBA and xSLG weren't out of whack either. His .256 xBA isn't much better than his .240 AVG, and his .400 xSLG is actually worse than his .451 SLG.

Bregman is as forthcoming with his hitting mechanics, approach, and mental cues as any big leaguer out there. Here is what he had to say about his swing this year. This was a Zoom press conference with the media following the Astros game on September 25th against the Rangers.

Bregman says he wants to hit balls in the air to the pull side and on a line to the opposite field, but in reality, he was hitting flares to the opposite field and hitting them on the ground to the pull side.

The data mostly backs up that claim. In 2019, on balls hit to the pull side, Bregman had an average exit velocity of 90.7 MPH at an average launch angle of 16°, a 40% Hard Hit %, and a 16% HR%. Since Bregman has elite bat-to-ball skills, most of those metrics didn't change. In 2020, his average exit velocity was 90.6, essentially the same as 2019. His Hard Hit % was 42%, a touch better than in 2019. However, his average launch angle dipped from 16° to 11°, which contributed to his HR% dropping all the way to 9%. Bregman hit 47% of his pull side swings on the ground. In 2019, that number was 40%. He absolutely had less production to the pull side in 2020.

The data gets a little hazier going the opposite way when comparing 2019 to 2020, as Bregman actually performed slightly better to the opposite field in 2020 than 2019, but he also only had 20 batted balls to the opposite field all season. Considering the small sample size, it isn't worth diving too deep into the data.

He's right that most of the balls he hit that way were flares. He had an average exit velocity of 83.4 MPH with an average launch angle of 32°, but that's about the same as what he did in 2019. A lot of the statistical drop off comes from balls that were backspun rockets to the pull side in 2019 becoming top spinners or roll overs in 2020.

Bregman also performed horribly against breaking balls in 2020. He batted .150 with a .250 SLG against them in 2020. He had an 84 MPH Average Exit Velocity against them and whiffed 26.5% of the time against them.

It was a far cry from 2019, when he hit .265 with a .588 SLG, 87 MPH average exit velo, and whiffed 18% of the time.

Those numbers lend credence to his statement on his mechanics. It's tough for a hitter to have adjustability against breaking balls if he's blowing out his front side and pulling off of the baseball.

Bregman will spend the offseason working on these mechanical fixes and getting back to the hitter he used to be. If he's consistently hitting the ball in the air to the pull side next year, and he's performing better against breaking balls, then he should be right back in the mix for AL MVP.

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