Every-Thing Sports

Five things the Texans organization must do this offseason

We all saw the debacle of the 51-31 loss to the Chiefs. We also know there have to be some changes made. One of the definitions of being insane to be unable to think in a clear or sensible way. Fans are fed up. The media is chomping at the bit. One thing we all need to understand is that Bill O'Brien isn't going anywhere any time soon. He's so engrained into the fabric on Kirby that it'll take a miracle for him to be ousted. So what now? Where does this organization go from here? How do they improve? Glad you asked. Here are five key things I believe the organization needs to do to improve this offseason:

New Defensive Coordinator

Romeo Crennel needs to be fired, retired, not retained, or whatever/however they choose to get rid of him. He wasn't the right hire when O'Brien took over in 2014 and has proven himself fit for replacement after that loss to the Chiefs. Crennel is a good defensive mind, but the game has seemed to pass him by. Failing to adjust to the personnel available to him and produce results made him appear as if he's too stuck in his ways or not capable of changing to adapt to today's game. There are too many qualified candidates out there that can come in and take over that side of the ball that could make a difference. Chuck Pagano, Kris Richard, and Marvin Lewis are the first few that come to mind.

A Real GM

The team already came out and said they won't be hiring a general manager this offseason. So if they went out and did the opposite, it would mean they either lied, or had an about face. I'd rather be labeled a liar than an idiot. Giving Nick Martin and Whitney Mercilus the extensions they did when they did were both bad enough. When you add the Jadeveon Clowney saga/trade and the trade for Laremy Tunsil and Kenny Stills to the mix, it becomes apparent that O'Brien has too much influence on roster decisions. A real GM won't cripple the team's draft capital and/or misuse cap space. The teams that consistently compete for Super Bowls have roster fluidity that keep them in contention. The Texans need that in the worst way.

A Second In Command On Offense

O'Brien has been calling plays ever since he got to Houston. He's grown and evolved, but not enough. He also thinks he's the only one with answers on that side of the ball. We all see where that's gotten this team. A new set of eyes and different way of thinking is needed. Deshaun Watson will be due for an extension soon. If the organization wants to maximize his potential, they'll need to force O'Brien to hire another set of eyes on offense. This person needs to be given free reign to call plays, implement gameplans, and influence roster moves on that side of the ball.

Ombudsman

A new GM, OC, and DC is one thing, but this team needs an ombudsman. There are so many things that need to be addressed: the roof of the stadium, team colors/logo, coaching staff, public relations, and media relations. Addressing them with someone engrained in the organization won't help. Hiring an outside consultant, permanently or temporarily, would help in getting this team in the best shape it could be in. The perception of this team as a complete joke has permeated into the national media given the stories about O'Brien's ineptness following the washing in Kansas City. An overseer would help in improving everything from top down about this organization.

The McNairs Need To Flex

In the animal world, the alphas make themselves known. There are certain ways to go about doing so. Some involve simple acts (like peeing to mark one's territory), others involve more drastic ways (like killing the competition). This is where the McNairs need to flex their muscle and mark their territory. Before he passed away, Bob McNair turned a $700 million dollar investment into a $2-plus billion dollar cash cow. It's up to his son Cal and wife Janice to keep the cow fat by turning it into a real contender. If they don't act fast, they'll let O'Brien ruin a good thing and it'll take longer to repair. Acting now will keep the window open while Deshaun Watson, J.J. Watt, and DeAndre Hopkins are still in their primes and under contract. It'll also show the fans that they mean business and that's something that'll keep them coming.

I told a few Texans fans the thing I dislike most about all this is seeing the diehards suffer through another disappointing season. They spend tons of their hard-earned money every year on a team that inevitably lets them down. When you have as much talent as this team has, the results need to match. When things continually look the same, as in failures, people get fed up. When people get fed up, they stop spending that hard-earned money. When that money stops flowing, ownership takes notice. The biggest two questions are: will they take notice before the money stops flowing or after, and when will they act?

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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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