FALCON POINTS

If Deshaun Watson really wants out, could anyone blame him?

The fallout of the disaster that was the DeAndre Hopkins trade continues to resonate in the Texans organization. Besides universal disdain for the deal locally, the national media has vilified Bill O'Brien and the Texans as well, going so far as to call it one of the worst trades in the history of the NFL. No amount of media leaks from O'Brien's side can change the narrative. It was simply a stupid move.

Ripple effects

Already, one free agent reportedly passed on the Texans because of O'Brien. Laremy Tunsil still has not signed an extension. Neither has Deshaun Watson. And if the Texans lose those two, the franchise is pretty much doomed. Watson in particular is the biggest problem. First, he tweeted out a cryptic Drake lyric, then liked a tweet about the Patriots calling him. There is already speculation he will be the Pats next QB.

The sounds of silence

Other than that, Watson has been quiet on the trade. There is no way he can be happy about it, nor should he. The tyrannical way in which O'Brien and Jack Easterby are running the franchise is wrong on so many levels. If Watson wants out, could anyone blame him?

Emerging star

Watson is a rarity in the NFL; a young, emerging star quarterback with tons of upside. Imagine what he could do with a real offensive mind? All O'Brien has done is fail to protect him with a patchwork offensive line, trade away an elite, No. 1 WR target for nothing and burden him with predictable play calling and now another inexperienced O'Brien "guy"as an OC.

Not to mention the small fortune in draft picks he has traded away, making it even more difficult to build around Watson.

Even by fixing the offensive line, O'Brien could easily make things worse by not-resigning Tunsil.

Playing hard ball

If the Texans want to be tough on Watson, they could let him play out next year on his rookie deal, then franchise him, assuming the tag is still in play. But if Watson has no interest in being here anymore, that will just make a tattered relationship even worse. He could easily demand a trade, which the Texans would not have to do. But it should never get to that point.

It should not have gotten this far.

Uncertain future

Watson is 24 years old with perhaps another 10 years ahead of him. Why would he want to spend it in an organization that has zero clue about how to use him? Giving O'Brien GM power is destroying the fabric of the organization. At some point, Cal McNair has to step in and stop this. If not, the money-motivated Texans may finally find out what it is like when people don't fill a stadium. The Hopkins trade has likely chased away a lot of loyal fans already, and who knows what the economy is going to look like when this mess is over? Empty seats and suites could be common. If fans do not want to be a part of this, why would Watson? By all indications, he likes the city and fans. But anyone who has been in an untenable work environment can relate. Many of us have left jobs for that very reason.

I truly feel for Texans fans, who have supported this franchise from the beginning. Now they are watching what should have been a Super Bowl contender dismantled, all to satisfy the ego of a man not qualified for the job he has been given. Many will continue to support the team no matter what, but at some point, even the most hardcore fan will get fed up.

In the real NFL world outside of Kirby, coaches can be replaced. Franchise quarterbacks can't. Someone other than O'Brien needs to step in right now and fix this. And the only person who can is McNair. If he doesn't and Watson is the one to eventually leave?

There will certainly be empty seats and suites. And then maybe he will take notice. Of course then it will be too late.

And sadly, maybe it already is.

By the way...

If you need to be cheered up in these trying times and want something to read, please email me at faour975@gmail.com and I will send you a collection of short stories. Asking for a minimum $10 donation to help Gow employees who are struggling. If we do well enough we will expand the reach. If you can't donate and just want something to read, I will send it free of charge. There are two gambling related stories, two vampire tales and another weird one. All are fiction.

I hope everyone stays safe.

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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.

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