RUN, HOUSTON

Fred Faour: You are never too old or too out of shape to take up running as a hobby

Start running and you might see views like this one of AT&T Park in San Francisco. Fred Faour/SportsMap

So yes, technically I am on vacation, celebrating my wife's birthday with a trip to San Francisco. And it is a pretty slow time in Houston sports, so I could easily pass on writing my Monday column and no one would fault me.

Alas, I had some time after recovering from a nice run and thought today's missive would take a different direction.

For the past several years, we have been running (well, in my case jogging or staggering) through 10ks as a way to at least pretend to stay in shape. One of our favorites has been the Run Houston Race series, which features five different runs at five different locations around Houston. It is a cool way to keep your running goals, see some different places in the city and get in a nice run (they do 5ks as well). Two years ago, we did them all. Last year, due to travel conflicts, we missed most of them. This year, we vowed to do them all again.

Then this trip came up and conflicted with Sunday's race at UH-Clear Lake, the third in the series. Of the five, it is probably my second favorite (behind the UH run), in part because I spent a lot of my college life (and all my post-graduate work) at the school, and always had a fondness for the area.

Fortunately, the series now offers a "Virtual Race" option for just such conflicts. In essence, you have to run your sign-up distance three days before or after the actual race day to get credit for running. No offense to Clear Lake, but getting to run along the bay in San Francisco was a bit of an upgrade.

 

.
The Bay Bridge. Photo by me.

My path took me from downtown San Francisco to The Embarcadero trail. It was along the water the entire way, and allowed me to get sensational views of the Bay Bridge and perhaps the most unique baseball stadium in the country, AT&T Park. My time was almost record slow, but it was hard to not stop and snap pictures quite often, and my always dodgy knee decided to buckle about 7k in. But I finished it, got credit for the third of the Run Houston races and also managed to take in some amazing scenery. (And pretty sure it was about 20 degrees cooler than it was in Clear Lake today).

I don’t run in these things to try to post fast times (not happening) and I don’t care if I finish last. I do them to have a reason to stay in shape, have some fun and push my aging body. As we get older, some of the things we used to do just aren’t practical (basketball, for instance. I am one snapped knee from six months of rehab, and who has time for that?). I was never much of a runner -- I always needed baskets or goal posts to shoot for -- but I enjoy it now nonetheless.

So if you are thinking of getting started, there are a lot of ways to get going. I started with the C2-5k app, which got me off the couch and started a program of running and walking to build up enough stamina to run a 5k. After about a year of 5ks, we stretched out to 10ks, and have been doing them ever since. At one point I actually ran a half marathon, and eventually would not mind trying another, but I am a long way from that at the moment. Regardless, the point is anyone can get out and run, and you are never too old or out of shape. (It's not like I am in perfect shape). Run Houston has two races left in the fall, (UH and Constellation Field in Sugar Land) and you have plenty time to get up to 5k speed.

Plus, there is no shortage of races for different causes every weekend in Houston. I tend to back off most of the summer races because the heat and humidity is so oppressive, but every now and then one crops up and I try it. (And vow to never again run in August, then sign up for another race two weeks later).

So if you have been looking  to get off the couch, and want to try something that can be fun, has a nice social aspect to it and can help you get in better shape, download the app and get started. You might find you enjoy it.

And before you say there is no way you could do it...I am an old, slightly overweight man with bad knees and health issues. If I can do it, what should stop you from getting started?

Then you can feel better about yourself when you blast past me on a run. 

 

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