NERDS AROUND TOWN

Nerds Around Town: X-Men, Vince Carter and King's Hawaiian Rolls

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!

Let's crush this week, it's Tuesday are you ready to succeed?

GOOD DEED OF THE DAY

How do you feel about saving lives and free ice cream? That sounds like an awesome combo right? Like who is turning that down? Head out to a Regional Gulf Coast Blood Center and make a blood donation if you're eligible. Help some people out, this weekend is a staunch reminder that there can never be enough good deeds and good will out in the universe because you never know when your mark is finally made on this world and you're out of time.

HAVE YOU TRIED IT?!

Arby's just announced they're putting King's Hawaiian rolls on their sliders. First of all this is some of the best news I've ever heard. I don't know if you know this but I have a hard obsession with King's Hawaiian bread, I will be forever a fan of it. There is no limit to the stuff I will do to get King's Hawaiian to be the bread of all my favorite fast food sandwiches. Also Arby's awhile back got rid of their Ham and Cheddar sandwiches so now the only form you can get the Ham and Cheddar combo is in a slider, so now that slider is even better in the Sandwich hierarchy. Someone check this stuff out!!

MARVEL COMICS COMMERCIALS

Marvel has heavily positioned themselves behind House of X and Powers of X, the new event from Jonathan Hickman, the architect of Secret War which was the ultimate story in the Doom vs Reed Richards rivalry. They are so bought in on this major event that for the first time in recent memory they are airing a television commercial in select markets. That's a big deal, they are moving all in on this relaunch of what was at one time the biggest and most important comic book in the Marvel Empire, The X Men. It was at one time selling over a million copies an issue, but now that's no longer the case as top selling comic books sell around 85,000 to 110,000 on a great month. Let's see what Hickman can do about that.

ONE MORE RUN

Vince Carter has announced he is coming back with the Atlanta Hawks for one more year. The one-time high-flying rookie of the year is scheduled to play in a record setting 22nd season. This feat will surpass Dirk, Garnett, Kevin Willis and Robert Parish and place him alone in the record books and will also make him the only player to play an NBA game in four separate decades if he makes a single appearance in the later part of the season in 2020. Vince has truly laid a groundwork for all true ballers to follow, the rare star who always knew when to defer and when to take the reins, his transformation from NBA Icon to mentor has been awesome to see and he's been a great calming asset on many young rosters over the last three seasons. Best of luck for one more run for the great Vince Carter, who played an astounding 76 games last year.

NOT THAT YOU ASKED

Times like these are when social media is at its worst. One thing for people to have opinions, that's fine. It's a whole other thing for people to just post weirdly false facts, I saw one that in the last two years there's only been four mass shootings? Are we that dumb? Have we truly moved into an era where facts don't mean anything at all? There were two this weekend, so are we saying these two and then two others since January 1st 2017? Does anyone think that's accurate? I'll stop you now, it's not. It's not even a little bit accurate, it's vastly inaccurate, now yes mass shootings can be defined a number of different ways and with a bunch of different settings but almost no way you define it, has there only been four. We need to do a better job of just looking something up before we get into the business of being this dumb.

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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