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NFL players approve new CBA

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In what was an extremely close vote, the NFL Player's association voted to approve the Collective Bargaining Agreement. The owners proposed it and it took the players about two weeks to vote and approve. When I say close, I mean close like you and 20 of your closest friends in a phone booth close. The final tally was 1019 to 959. Yes folks, 60 votes decided the fate of the NFL players for the next 10 years! So, what does this actually mean?

17 game schedule

The 17 game schedule will take place between the 2021 and 2023 seasons per the window agreed upon. Why the window? The new television contracts will be in place by then, which will allow the new money from those deals to infuse into the new split of league revenue between owners and players. How will they figure the 17th game into the schedule? Personally, I think it should be a rivalry game and they should market it like college football does. The NFL loves their marketing campaigns. I can see it now: "Rivalry Week presented by _____"

A seventh playoff team in each conference

This change will take place this upcoming season. By adding a seventh team, it will give the bye to only the first overall seed in each conference. We're either going to see a lot more crappy teams make it and get blown out, or a low seed hit its stride and upset a two seed who would've gotten a bye previously. This means more playoff football, but of what quality? Are we truly going to get better games Wildcard Weekend?

Rosters expanding

With adding a game to the regular season, it was natural to expand rosters to offset wear and tear. Practice squads will grow to 14 by 2022, active gameday rosters will now be 48 instead of 46, and weekly rosters can be 55 instead of 53 by elevating two practice squad guys every week to main roster. This will hopefully be enough to offset wear and tear. But my question will be are they willing to make adjustments to this model by examining the injury data?

Revenue split

The players will eventually get a 48.5% share of league revenue once the escalators finish kicking in before the 2022 season starts. this brings them in line with what other major sportd leagues are getting now. Cinsidering they play the most violent game, it's well-deserved. NFL owners have long gotten away with non-guaranteed contracts. Hopefully this'll ease some tensions of the close vote.

Other Takeaways

The changes in disciplinary and drug policies are huge as well. Most notably, THC positive tests are bumped up to 150 nanograms from 35. There's now a neutral decision maker for all commissioner related disciplinary decisions. Players have always thought Roger Goodell had too much authority as judge, jury, and executioner. These two things alone were big wins for the players. Not to mention the lessening of padded practices in training camp and regular season. Adding that to the fact that there's one less preseason game and a limit on how many hours players can spend at the facility per day, it seems as if they took some player safety measures.

While the fallout isn't fully clear, I imagine there will be some. So many players took hard stances for or against this that it's inevitable we'll see some fallout of the same variety. We get more meaningful football, but will it hold quality? We also have to make some adjustments to what we deem successful seasons as far as numbers are concerned. Per game averages will hold more weight. On the bright side, we won't have to get nervous about a work stoppage for another 10 years. Cheers to more football!

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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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