NERDS AROUND TOWN

Nerds Around Town: Lady Thor, Madden and farming

ART BY JESUS RODRIGUEZ

Born with a comic book in one hand and a remote control in the other, Cory DLG is the talent of Conroe's very own Nerd Thug Radio and Sports. Check out the podcast replay of the FM radio show at www.nerdthugradio.com!

This week continues on and we're already at Wednesday, let's get them!

GOOD DEED OF THE DAY

Make sure to get over to The West Bar and Grill on August 4th. They are supporting 13yr old Kobee Cohen, who having previously defeated Rhabdomayosarcoma recently suffered a return of the disease and now it is in his brain. Looking towards hospice care, the family needs financial aid and support during this difficult time. There will be a raffle and donations for the raffle are still being accepted, everyone is welcome to attend and I'm encouraging them to do so!

SAY WHAT?!

Farming Simulator 2019 Platinum edition has been announced for the fall. You can now control over 35 different vehicles and there are now even more ways for you to tend to your crops. This gaming franchise has been a slow rolling hit for a really long time and over the last four years has really picked up steam. I know right now there are some of you reading this and thinking there's a punchline coming but there isn't. The whole idea of a farming simulator seems like the antithesis of everything that is gaming, but in actuality it's proof that gaming is whatever you want it to be in the comfort of your home in front of your PC, X Box, PS, Switch or cell phone. It's just weird to think that this many people get excited about the idea of being a farmer, but then again, for some of these people this may be their only way out of large crowded cities full of things and people they don't like. This is their escape, farming. I guess.

THORS TALKS

So one of the big announcements coming out of Comic Con was the announcement of Thor: Love and Thunder which has Natalie Portman returning and becoming Thor. This is all great news and very exciting stuff, Lady Thor is one of the best new ideas Marvel had possessed and executed in a while with the writer Jason Aaron nailing that whole storyline. Another interesting bit about the movie is it sounds like Valkyrie will be in search of a Queen to rule along side her in her newly appointed role of King of Asgard, and Jaime Alexander, known in the Marvel universe as Lady Sif has thrown her hat in the ring. That would be a great way to bring all of this full circle if now Sif and Valkyrie were ruling Asgard when in the beginning they both served other rulers of Asgardian lore. This next phase of Marvel is so exciting for all the unknowns circling around everything.

MADDEN TALK

Madden is regularly a discussion among the NFL during this time of year as the game is slated to be released soon and lots of people have questions about ratings and things of that nature and the players react accordingly. It brings up an interesting issue, so teams like the Cardinals are coming into this year with very low ratings both offensively and defensively. So overall none of these players can feel all that great about their chances this season, I mean we all know Madden has a level of accuracy to it. Athletes are driven in part by an internal ego that says they are better than everyone else and everyone else doubts them and hates them. It's their job to turn that into fuel for the fire, but how do you do that if you can't get the engine revved up at all? How do you convince yourself you're better than everyone else when they literally have every component of your game broken down and rated and they say, "yeah you're not that good." That's an impressive level of delusion.

NOT THAT YOU ASKED

So one of the things I do is host a radio show. I've had several business ventures over the years that involve radio airtime, for example I once owned an internet radio station and was selling airtime to shows. Several people accused me of "payola" because they have no idea what that word means. For those who don't know, many radio stations sell their air time, just like television stations sell their airtime, just like advertisers buy billboards at sporting venues, there is money in entertainment and sports, ok? The point of this rant though is that people have no idea what is illegal or legal and it always blows my mind. People getting up in arms about a bathroom bill, don't realize we don't have a bathroom law now. If a man uses a women's restroom right now it isn't a crime it's just inappropriate. People who are calling the immigrants law breakers don't know how Asylum works and that for many of these people it's legal for them to come here and request Asylum, it's an internationally recognized right. What blows my mind is people are so quick to be Monday Morning Prosecutor but have no basic understanding of what is or isn't even legal or illegal.

Feel free to check out my brand new comic book Another Day at the Office or buy a shirt from Side Hustle Ts where some proceeds help people struggling with cancer or listen to Nerd Thug Radio. Thoughts, complaints, events and comments can be sent to corydlg@gmail.com.

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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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