A-plus analysis

Holly grades the major free agent signings

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As you're reading this I'm sure your mom is getting signed. So as of noon on Wednesday, March 13 this is my grading. Enjoy!

Texans (F)
So many mistakes, where do I begin? Let's start with Ronald Darby. Its doubtful that Philly will resign him. This is the PERECT fit for one of the Texans biggest needs. Darby is young and experienced. He's got speed and a good eye. Did Houston reach out? Of course not. But what Houston DID do is let Mathieu AND Kareem Jackson slip away only to turn around and sign Roby and Gipson. I'm okay with the 1 year trial test on Roby, Gipson... Meh. The Texans time is NOW. They're letting their talent waste. Watt doesn't have that many years left and what's happening with Clowney? They franchised tagged him and have two choices now… 1) Pay him a mother load next year which we all know won't happen or 2) Tag him again and watch him not show up. Houston has the cap space… I'm just waiting for the fans to get what they deserve. Impress me, Houston. PLEASE.

NYG (F-)
If there is ever a team that can out do the Texans on mistakes, here they are. If anyone knows what the New York Giants are doing, feel free to tweet at me and let me know. First, you get rid of your number one defensive player. Then you trade away your number one wide receiver, who just happens to be one of the best receivers in the entire NFL for two picks and a trash safety? But you keep Eli. I understand in the rebuilding concept but this franchise is actually rebuilding BACKWARDS. If anything, you lock in your stars and look for an Eli replacement. *sigh*

BUFFALO WT..(F)
The Bills are the 21 year old me.. blowing through a check on stuff I didn't even have anything to show for in the end.
Frank Gore - old
Beasley - overpaid
Morse - Eh.
Kevin Johnson - Concussions are contagious? Because the head office caught one.
This may, in fact, be some of the worst FA moves I've seen in a while.

EAGLES (B)
TRUTH: Howie Roseman is a magician. Not really, but the man is pretty damn good at shuffling the cap money around. Let's address the mistake.. Philadelphia gave away their best pass rusher for free. Now, let the dust settle. Malik Jackson, DT from Jacksonville blessed the line with a 3yr/$30mil. Picture this… Jackson next to Fletch, Graham & Long. Now THAT'S a sexy front four. It gets even sexier hours later. DeSean Jackson comes home. The Eagles have now addressed two of their bigger concerns going into 2019. Wentz will have Jeffery, Ertz, Goedert, likely Agholor to stay in the slot and D Jac to stretch the field. Onto the draft.

BROWNS (B)
Two words, Sheldon Richardson. Three initials, OBJ. This is huge. But you know what they say about dream teams, beware. Can Cleveland pull this off, or does it just look good on paper? Is this for real or is this for fun?

NINERS (C)
Now I know what you're thinking, why does this team get a C? Everything looks so good right now, right? Minus the hefty price tags. But I see right through this. Here come the 49ers to make us all think that they will be great and this will be "the season." No thanks, I'm out this year. Continue to over spend and make no noise.

JAGUARS ( B )
The Jags have done nothing to allow me to give them a fair grade. BUT. Technically they SHOULD receive an automatic A for replacing that garbage can.. I mean.. Blake Bortles. "Holly, what do you think of Foles to Jacksonville?!" Foles deserves that money. Is he the new face of that franchise? Probably not. There are a select FEW QBs who actually have the ability to turn just about any team into something decent. Foles is not an Aaron Rodgers or a Tom Brady. And, as much as you may want to believe... I am not one to foresee the future. However, if Nick Foles can't cure the cancer in that locker room, I'm not sure what the answer is.

RAIDERS (C)
Adding big name AB isn't my focus. They upgraded with Trent Brown but way over paid. I'm also not a huge fan of Joyner. Give me more because I'm still not "WOW'd.

PACKERS (B)
Let's keep this one short and sweet. LOVE the Amos signing. ZaDarius Smith, I like it. Go Pack.

REDSKINS (LOL)

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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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