Every-Thing Sports

Can we finally put to bed some stereotypes in sports?

You're here on this site reading this because you're a sports fan. You have more than likely have invested countless hours watching and cheering for your favorite, or against your least favorite, teams. Whether it be the high school you went to (or your kids' school), your college or pro team of choice (or a birthright), you've dedicated a certain portion of your life to sports and your teams. You've also, by sheer exposure, have developed certain opinions. For example: I've talked to some fans in Houston who will support the Texans no matter what because they remember the years without pro football.

There are also other opinions that you've undoubtedly formed as a sports fan. Some of them are based off observation, some are based off history, while others are based on certain biases. We call the ones based off biases stereotypes. You know what stereotypes are because you have done it to others or have experienced them yourself. I know a lot of you have been profiled by employers, the police, landlords, bankers, etc. But have you ever thought about some of the stereotypes in sports? Or better yet, have you ever thought about how many of them are outdated and irrelevant? Here's a few that I've been thinking about:

"Athletic" quarterbacks can't make it in the NFL

First things first: "athletic" quarterbacks is most often code for black quarterbacks (minus a few exceptions, this is pretty true). The leading MVP candidates this year are Lamar Jackson and Russell Wilson. Deshaun Watson was in the race until his showing against the Ravens a couple weeks ago. They all fit the mold of athletic quarterbacks. More and more the NFL is catering to these guys instead of trying to get them to fit a mold. Coaches like Kliff Kingsbury are getting a shot because of their knowledge of the types of wide open offenses being run at the college level that play to the strengths of spread style athletic quarterbacks. Sooner or later, these guys will take over the league.

White guys aren't good athletes

Sneaky fast/quick. Good hands and good route runner. More cerebral and that helps his lack of athleticism. This is mainly a football thing. However, Christian Mc Caffrey is blowing this out the water. He's one of the leading yards from scrimmage guys in the NFL this year. Pro golfer Dustin Johnson is considered the best athlete on the PGA tour. He once did a photoshoot where he showcased his ability to dunk a basketball. Mike Trout and Christian Yelich are two of the best baseball players on the planet. This narrative has to go.

Kids need to pick a sport and stick with it

Growing up, most kids play different sports. They may excel at all or none of them. The ones who excel at one or more are now being forced to pick one and stick to only that sport. Why? Would we have seen Bo Jackson or Deion Sanders if it were for a foolish idea like this? The idea that kids can't play multiple sports is dumb. The year-long playing and practicing of some sports gets in the way, but so does limiting kids. Narrowing their focus makes them narrow their thoughts, and we all see how far that's gotten this country.

Over my nearly four decades on this planet, I've watched a ton of sports. Ever since I could talk, my family would say sports was the thing I showed the most interest in. My aunt Charlene will tell everybody about me only knowing George Rogers for the Saints and yelling "Go Big George!" every time anyone in a Saints uniform did anything. I vividly remember the Lakers vs Celtics NBA Finals matchups of the 80s. I moved to Atlanta the summer the Braves were going from worst to first and suffered through only winning one World Series in the 90s. USMNT's run in '94 and USWNT's win in '99 got me into soccer. I was old enough to know Steffi Graf winning the Grand Slam in '88 was a huge deal. I also remember when Tiger Woods burst on the scene and vaguely remember Jack Nicholas' miracle win at The Masters in '86. Seeing the aforementioned Jackson and Sanders play pro football and baseball at the highest levels were among my favorite memories. None of this would be believable had any of these teams/athletes limited themselves to the narrow-minded thoughts of stereotypes. What are some of the stereotypes you've seen? Sound off on Twitter and let me know. Let's discuss this further. I'm sure there are some you guys can think of that I've left off here.

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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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