HARRIS COUNTY-HOUSTON SPORTS AUTHORITY INSIDER

Artist Otterstad ready to unveil massive Astros mural

Opie Otterstad unveiled his latest painting. Patti Smith/Twitter

The Harris County – Houston Sports Authority Insider will take you inside Houston Sports each Friday because #WeAreHoustonSports!


You’ve been watching him for months now.

The man in the fedora and plaid jacket. Always on his scaffold, always hard at work on that giant painting.

You recognize Altuve. Keuchel. Verlander. The scene – Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. And definitely the moment – your Houston Astros winning the 2017 World Series in seven.

Opie Otterstad has been a staple on the concourse at Minute Maid Park all season. His last stop was just behind the Insperity Suite, but he’s moved around the park, letting fans see at least one-fifth of what will be a Texas-sized celebration mural for everyone.

The final product – all 10 feet x 25 feet of it -- will be unveiled at a press conference Friday afternoon at 4:30 on the Suite level. That’s when Otterstad, Houston’s own and one of Texas’ best sports artists, will show off the challenging piece.

It is, for the most part, a larger version of the work he released this spring, but with some tweaks. Because of the size and proportion, some of the players are in a slightly different position and the background has changed a bit

“Doing a mural like this is different than doing a piece in the studio because in the studio, it’s a completely different rhythm,’’ Otterstad said. “You paint sort of on a regular schedule, but when you add the element of fans and people talking to you, it’s a different experience all together.’’

Fans and friends have dropped by to see the progress over the last four months, but, before the All-Star break, Otterstad took the painting back to his studio to stand with it by himself – no people, no distractions – and put the finishing touches on the canvas.

Otterstad has done the official World Series celebration paintings for the past 15 years. He’ll tell you the 2004 World Series when the Boston Red Sox snapped the curse and the 2016 Series that went to the Cubs are among the special moments. But nothing can compare to being at every Astros’ playoff game last season and being on the field for the Game 7 win.

In fact, he did an entire series of paintings of the Astros – including the smaller official painting -- that can be viewed at Off The Wall in The Galleria.

In addition to baseball – Otterstad has a special affinity for the sport going back to his younger days when he grew up with Nolan Ryan and Jose Cruz’s children – he has also painted athletes like Ben Crenshaw, Brett Favre and Tom Brady.

He was also the official artist for the first annual Houston Sports Awards and the Houston Sports Hall of Fame.

Each work has a place in his heart, but this mural? It’s on another level. And, if the Astros would happen to repeat? Would he do another massive project?

"This sets the new precedent,'' he said. "It's the gateway painting for a new culture of winning in this town. I don't know that I'd want to work on a painting this big again. I'm not a muralist. I like painting big, but this is on a completely different level."








 

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

Tucker looks like the real deal. Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

Kyle Tucker finally had his breakout season in 2020. The 23-year-old flashed potential to be a legitimate five-tool threat. He slashed .268/.325/.512, swiped eight bags, and played above average defense. Is Tucker's performance sustainable? Not only that, but is there room for growth?

Hard Hit % - 44.5%

Barrel % - 9.1%

K % - 20.2%

BB % - 7.9%
Chase % - 26.2%

The first thing to realize with Kyle Tucker is the small sample size at the MLB level. Despite appearing in three separate seasons, he's played in a total of 108 games, which is obviously quite a bit shy of even one full season. He also has an extremely unique swing that you wouldn't teach to anybody, but it "works" for him. This makes him a tough hitter to judge, as it's uncomfortable judging mechanics that work for him, and it's uncomfortable judging numbers that haven't had time to develop trends.

Hard Hit, Barrel, and Chase numbers are unavailable for the minors, but walk and strikeouts percentages are. This creates the ability to at least look at one trend.

Tucker broke onto the scene in 2018 with a monstrous season for AAA Fresno, the Astros affiliate at the time. In 2018, Tucker slashed .332/.400/.590 with 24 homers and 20 steals. He had an 18.1% K% and a 10.3% BB% that season. In 2019, Tucker struck out a little bit more (21.6%) but also walked a little bit more (11.2%). Tucker's 20.2% K% in 2020 is more in line with his minor league K%, indicating he's adjusted to major league pitching.

Tucker essentially put the pieces of contact ability and quality of contact from his previous MLB stints together in 2020. In 2018, Tucker didn't strike out very much (18.1% K%), but his 3.9% Barrel % didn't strike fear in any opponent.

In 2019, Tucker had a 12.8% Barrel %, and his 92 MPH average exit velocity is the best of his three seasons in MLB, but he struck out 27.8% of the time and walked just 5.6% of the time.

In 2020, there's a marriage between the two. His K% and BB% aren't as good as his 2018 marks, but they're better than his 2019 marks. His exit velocity and Barrel % aren't as good as his 2019 marks, but they're better than his 2018 marks. Tucker became a hitter that was able to do more damage without sacrificing consistency.

Tucker had a xBA of .267, which is right in line with his .268 average. His .459 xSLG lags behind his .512 actual SLG, but it isn't a catastrophic drop. The version of Tucker Astros fans saw is essentially who he is, but how does he improve?

What really unlocked Tucker in 2020 was a change in his setup.

Image via: GraysonSkweres/Twitter/Screenshot

Here he is on August 2nd against the Angels. As you can see, he's standing pretty straight up, and he has a "neutral" stance. Following the game on Aug. 2, Tucker was batting .200/.250/.300 with no homers.

Image via: GraysonSkweres/Twitter/Screenshot

Here's Tucker on August 6th, just a few days later. He's started to close off his stance just a bit, but he's still pretty neutral, and he has a little more forward body lean with his torso. Following the game on Aug. 6, he was batting .214/.267/.357 with a homer.

Image via: GraysonSkweres/Twitter/Screenshot

Now, here's Tucker on August 10th. His stance is considerably closed off, and he's maintaining the forward body lean he adopted on August 6th. Following the game on Aug. 10, Tucker was batting .190/.230/.328. It would be the last time any of those numbers would be that low the rest of the year. He maintained that stance for the rest of the season, and he finished the month of August hitting .272/.333/.588.

The swing change allowed him to be a factor on the outside pitch. Tucker would pull off on his front side, which made it tough for him to keep balls fair on the pull side. He'd often yank inside fastballs into the stands down the right field line. It also made him uncompetitive on outside strikes, as he'd either swing-and-miss, or roll them over into the shift.

After he made the change, Tucker started steering inside pitches fair, and he was able to do something with pitches on the outer third.

The next step is finding a way to continue to diversify his batted ball profile. Tucker's pull percentage in 2020 was 47%. That's a higher pull % than guys like Kyle Schwarber and Matt Olson. It was only 1% lower than Rangers outfielder Joey Gallo.

The one dimensional batted ball profile allows teams to shift Tucker aggressively. Teams shifted Tucker in 74% of his at-bats. His wOBA against the shift is .304. In AB's where teams didn't shift him, Tucker had a .455 wOBA. The shift hurts Tucker more than most as well, because he hits the ball on the ground 39% of the time. Gallo and Olson hit it on the ground 32% and 35% of the time respectively.

Lastly, Tucker's performance on breaking balls leaves a lot to be desired. He crushes fastballs, as he batted .303 with a .574 SLG against fastballs in 2020, with a .292 xBA and .528 xSLG. His .208 AVG and .396 SLG against breaking balls aren't very good, and his .209 xBA and .340 xSLG don't tell a prettier story. His 32% whiff % against breaking balls is nearly double his whiff % on fastballs.

If Tucker can learn to be more competitive against breaking balls and learn to use the whole field, then he'll be a really scary hitter. If he doesn't, teams will be able to gameplan for him, and he'll see streaky production similar to other one dimensional hitters like Matt Carpenter and the aforementioned Gallo and Olson.

While the bat may be streaky, Tucker brings it with the glove and on the bases. He had 5 DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) in the outfield in 2020, a 0.6 UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating), and he was plus-4 in Outs Above Average. His well above average speed and instincts give him the ability to be a rangy outfielder and dangerous baserunner.

Tucker had a breakout season in 2020, but there's still changes left to be made if he wants to be a breakout star and not a one hit wonder.

This is part four of an offseason series covering the 2020 Houston Astros. Be sure to check out parts 1-3 on SportsMap.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome