PAYING THE TROLLS

Lance Zierlein: Every spring, people on Twitter hate me

Titans adding help for Marcus Mariota? Nope. Fuel for trolls. Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The term “troll” has become an infamous addition into our country’s lexicon thanks to the anonymity of social media - most notably Twitter. By now, we know that the world is filled with miserable people who use Twitter as a method of intentionally attacking others in an attempt to elicit a response.

Since being hired by NFL.com in the fall of 2014, I’ve been lucky enough to handle draft analysis for the website which includes draft profiles, team needs for all 32 teams, and television and digital broadcast duties at the Combine and during the NFL Draft.  It also includes mock drafts.

Mock anger

Nothing, and I mean nothing can prepare you for the angry hordes and Twitter trolls that you will be faced with when you release a mock draft on a national scale. For starters, you have to develop a feel for which prospects are really first-round worthy. Figuring that bit of information takes studying draft history, learning positional value and then understanding player evaluations in that particular draft.

Secondly, you have to have a feel for team needs and you have to understand that teams often pass on drafting what the fanbase considers to be the “top need” in order to draft a good player at another position. There is no way for any normal mock drafter to know the narrative of what a team needs most and who they are most likely to draft like a hardcore member of the fanbase. So when you make a selection that doesn’t match the narrative of need or player, get ready.

The NFL’s twitter account has 24.6 million followers. When the NFL tweets my mock drafts out to that many followers, I ready myself for a barrage of angry fans and hopeful trolls looking to assail me with gifs of trash cans on fire, people dying of laughter, and little children vomiting. I typically take four to five hours to finish a mock draft. I put an excessive amount of time and effort into my mock drafts and get vomiting children for my hard work.

When the initial deluge of gifs finishes, I’m left with at least one angry fan base. After my mock 3.0 was released, the Tennessee Titans fans were the offended party because I gave them tight end Hayden Hurst from South Carolina. Apparently many mock drafts are pushing tight end to the Titans and the fans are beyond fatigued with it.

I gave them tight end because Delanie Walker’s contract is up and the Titans will need to find another tight end who can help as a run blocker and pass-catcher for Marcus Mariota. This didn’t align with Titans fans and they’ve spent the last 20 hours telling me how lazy and stupid I am and that I’ve lost my credibility. Sometimes I wonder if they even realize that this isn’t their actual pick.

Show recommendation

Catastrophe - When  my wife and I were in Chicago visiting friends last summer, one of our friends suggested we watch Catastrophe on Amazon Prime Video. For starters, he said that the combination of Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan was absolutely hilarious as couple who has a one-weekend stand and are forced to make life decisions after she gets pregnant. They decide to marry and give it a shot and the show revolves around their relationship (abroad in England) and her pregnancy.

The show moves forward with different story-lines over the next two seasons, but if you are married you will probably recognize many of the conversations and situations they find themselves in. The show is written and acted by Delaney and Horgan and they capture real conversations and real issues in a unique and effective way.

 

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