Houston 1, Portland 1

5 kicks from Houston Dynamo's 1-1 draw with Timbers FC

Courtesy Houston Dynamo

The Houston Dynamo were held to a 1-1 draw by the Portland Timbers on Wednesday night at BBVA Compass Stadium. Mauro Manotas opened the scoring for Houston in the 40th minute. Portland tied it in the 77th thanks to Liga MX's second top scorer for the Clausura 2019 season, Brian Fernandez, in his MLS debut.

Here are five observations from the win:

1) A missed opportunity

The Dynamo will lament dropping two points at home to a club that has never left Houston with a win. Add on top of that the detail that Portland has played its entire schedule, up to this point, on the road.

The Timbers should've been ripe for the pickings against a Dynamo that has been strong at home and had won every league match except one coming into this game. That non-win was a draw in the home opener against Real Salt Lake, nothing to get too worked up about as both teams were in early season form.

This draw will sting, however, because the Dynamo took the lead and had an opportunity to jump up to second place in the Western Conference standings. Clubs like D.C. United and Sporting KC, with an away game to Minnesota United sandwiched in between, are what's next on the schedule and Portland's performance will give away teams confidence to leave BBVA Compass Stadium with a positive result.

2) Beasley returns as part of lineup rotation

Head Coach Wilmer Cabrera made three changes from the starting XI at Seattle on Sunday. The lineup rotation is due to the team's schedule of three matches in a week.

The most notable of the changes was the return of DaMarcus Beasley at left back. The U.S. Men's National Team Legend and team captain had yet to play in league matches and was sidelined during the team's Concacaf Champions League elimination at Tigres UANL in March.

Aljaz "Kiki" Struna, one of the team's biggest offseason acquisitions, also returned to the starting XI being left out of the team that traveled to Seattle. Boniek Garcia also returned as a starter after featuring as a sub in the 1-0 away loss over the weekend.

3) Manotas the Timberslayer

Mauro Manotas now has seven regular season goals against Timbers FC, his highest against an MLS club. He's also enjoyed his only MLS hat-trick as well as an important playoff performance against Portland.

More to the context of this season, Manotas picked up his fifth goal to ascend as the team's top scorer. The Colombian continues his way towards another high scoring season as he complements the playmaking of Alberth Elis.

He scored with his chest which only further emphasizes his knack to find the back of the net no matter the fashion. He will be needed again on Sunday as D.C. United visit with one of the world's famed goalscorers in Wayne Rooney.

4) Dependence on Elis

As much as Manotas deserves praise for his goals with the Dynamo, it is Alberth Elis who has been the team's most valuable player. Elis has banked four goals and five assists.

Manotas himself has five goals and four assists but Elis would be missed more on the field if the team were to lose one of the two. Elis has been a player teams absolutely have to account for and, when he is contained - as we've seen in the two Dynamo losses this year and the draw on Wednesday, the team struggles to yield wins.

Nobody should be surprised that Elis has been the focal point of opposing defenses, it was expected. What is surprising is that the Dynamo have yet to respond to that strategy and punish teams for being asked to win without him - not to mention prepare in case of the Honduran's departure in the summer transfer window.

5) Big Joe with big saves

During Cabrera's tenure as the Manager of the Dynamo, the goalkeeper spot has always been up for debate and rotations at that position are not rare. Not this season.

Joe Willis has absolutely taken command of the spot both in league action and earlier in the team's Concacaf Champions League run. There is no question between his level of play and his backups.

The Dynamo would've dropped all three points at home without Willis on Wednesday. For that reason, he is the man of the match and an unspoken hero on the team sheet.

Dynamo player of the game: Joe Willis

Next up:

Saturday, April 18 vs D.C. United (7:30 p.m. CT, KUBE57) [ESPN+ for U.S. non-Houston markets]

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

TO BE THE MAN, YOU GOTTA BEAT THE MAN!

The answers in the outfield are becoming clearer than the Astros hoped

*Note: Some Advanced Statistics, courtesy of Baseball Savant, do not include Thursday night's game against the Diamondbacks. Others, courtesy of Fangraphs, do include Thursday night's game*

The Corpus Christi Hooks Twitter account confirmed that Yordan Alvarez is alive and able to take swings, meaning the slugger's return to the Astros lineup is getting closer. Alvarez will get a bulk of the DH at-bats. With Springer being the primary center fielder, and Brantley being the primary left fielder, Dusty Baker will have to choose between Josh Reddick and Kyle Tucker for his primary right fielder. Who should he choose?

How do you boil down picking between two players to one question? What is the most important thing to judge a hitter on? The answer

The better player is the player that does the most damage consistently.

Sounds easy, right? But how do you judge that?

  1. Hard Hit %
  2. BB:K
  3. Contact %

Why these three? Well, hitting the ball hard usually leads to damage, so it is good to hit the ball hard. A player that walks and strikes out roughly the same amount is generally pretty consistent, so BB:K ratios closer to 1:1 (this is extremely rare, and a vast majority of MLB hitters are worse than 1:2) are good. Lastly, players that make contact a lot not only can generally do more of the little things like moving runners over, lifting a ball with a runner on third, or executing a hit & run, but also they generally don't swing and miss at their pitch when they get it. Action happens.

Kyle Tucker has a hard hit % of 38.5% so far in 2020. That is 55th in MLB amongst players with at least 25 batted balls (Tucker has 26). For context, Padres star third baseman Manny Machado is ranked 54th with 38.9%, thorn-in-the-Astros-side Kole Calhoun is t-58th at 37.9%, and Padres star shortstop Fernando Tatis leads the big leagues at 66.7% (wow).

So, more than 1/3rd of the time Tucker makes contact, he hits it hard. That's pretty good...But how often does he make contact?

Tucker has a contact % of 75.6%, meaning he makes contact with the baseball three out of every four times he swings the bat. That is 88th amongst qualified hitters. He is 1% worse than the slumping Jose Altuve, tied with that guy Kole Calhoun again, and about 1% better than the also-slumping George Springer. Tucker is far from elite at putting the bat on the ball, but he isn't terrible either.

However, despite hitting baseball's hard one-third of the time and making contact three-thirds of the time, Tucker strikes out entirely too much. His 29.3% K-rate is the 35th worst in baseball, and he doesn't offset the strikeouts with a lot of walks either. Tucker walks just 7.3% of the time, which is the 62nd lowest. Ultimately, Tucker has a BB:K ratio of 0.25, which is 49th in MLB right now.

Lastly, while it isn't part of the criteria above, Tucker doesn't have a very diverse batted ball portfolio. Tucker hits the ball to the pull side 65% of the time, and he's hit it on the ground 50% of the time. Eventually, teams will start placing heavy shifts on him, and those balls that have snuck through holes in the early parts of the year won't anymore.

But, is Josh Reddick any better? While none of Tucker's numbers blow you away, they aren't terrible, and he's a young prospect that needs playing time to develop.

Reddick has a 31.3% hard hit % so far in 2020, about seven percentage points below Tucker. 31.3% places Reddick in 96th place, between players like Marcus Semien and Yuli Gurriel. So, Tucker has Reddick beat here, but it isn't by a landslide.

Reddick has a contact % of 80.5%, which is 50th in MLB right now. He's better than Tucker by 5%, and he's in the top quartile in baseball. Reddick also sprays the ball around when he makes contact, hitting the ball to center field 43.8% of the time, right field 37.5% of the time, and left field 18.8% of the time. His ground ball rate is also 31%, almost 20% lower than Tucker's. That would explain why Reddick and Tucker's Barrel % (hard hit baseballs hit in the most desired exit velocity) are within a percentage point of one another despite Tucker having a seven point hard hit advantage.

Lastly, Reddick doesn't strike out very much. He strikes out 14% of the time, which is the 34th best K% in baseball (funny enough, Gurriel and Brantley are 33rd and 32nd). While Reddick doesn't walk a ton either, he walks more than Tucker, clocking in four percentage points better at 11.6%. That results in a BB:K ratio of 0.83, which is tied with Bryce Harper and Freddie Freeman for the 30th best in MLB.

Throw in the fact that Reddick plays significantly better defense, and it's really a no-brainer who should play. Astros fans might want the sexier and newer model in Tucker, but it isn't time to trade in old reliable just yet. When Yordan Alvarez returns, Josh Reddick is the right answer in right field.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome