Every-Thing Sports

NFL Week One: Good, bad & ugly

Photo via Kansas City Chiefs/Facebook

Football is officially back! The games now mean something and all the players fans were waiting to see are now in uniform (unless they're hurt or suspended). The more things change, the more they stay the same. Here's how I saw week one of the 100th NFL regular season:

The Good

-Chiefs quarterback Pat Mahomes and their offense picked up where they left off last sason. They beat the Jags 40-28, and it wasn't even as close as the 12 point difference would suggest. Losing Tyreek Hill early in the game didn't make a difference as Sammy Watkins filled that big play role with nine catches for 198 yards and three touchdowns. Chiefs are still scary.

-The Ravens beat the Dolphins 59-10 behind Lamar Jackson's huge day. He went 17/20 for 324 yards and five touchdowns with a perfect 158.3 quarterback rating. "Not bad for a running back" was his comment in reference to some suggesting he should play wide receiver in the NFL coming into the draft last year.

-The Vikings offense looked like a well-oiled machine with a healthy Dalvin Cook. 23 touches for 120 yards and two touchdowns helped the Vikings beat the Falcons 28-12. Kirk Cousins only passed the ball 10 times in the victory. Getting a plus three mark in the turnover margin will help you win big when you're outgained by 76 total yards.

The Bad

-The Lions went up 24-6 13 seconds into the fourth quarter. How they let the Cardinals back into the game and allowed it to end in a 27-27 tie is beyond me. The Cardinals are an awful team. Kyler Murray is a rookie quarterback playing behind a bad offensive line. Could be the makings of a long season for the Lions.

-The Steelers put up a shade over 300 total yards against the Patriots in a 33-3 loss Sunday night. I'll be looking closely at the team who lost arguably the best running back and wide receiver this past offseason. This offense looked flat to say the least. They keep this up and fans will long for the days when they had divas as playmakers.

-The Redskins were up 20-7 over the Eagles at halftime. The Eagles won the game 32-27. If there ever were a game to steal in your division, it was this one and the Redskins blew it. Biggest contributing factor: the Redskins only had 28 yards rushing, but had 96 yards in penalties. Mind you, there were no turnovers committed by either team.

The Ugly

-The Dolphins lost by seven touchdowns and reportedly some players have asked for trades. They will be historically bad because some of those players didn't step up and play better. How can you ask for a trade when you're apart of the reason why the team played so poorly? Sure they're tanking, but those guys are all pro football players. Play better.

-The Jags lost quarterback Nick Foles to a broken clavicle. He was placed on injured reserve with a designation to return and isn't eligible for a return until week 11 at the earliest. Losing your season opener is one thing, but to lose the guy at the position you thought was going to carry you beyond purgatory in that opener is totally different.

-13 teams on opening weekend scored as much or less than the Astros scored on Sunday in their 21-1 romp over the Mariners. As much as the league has changed the rules to promote more scoring, it still amazes me that some are unable to generate points. The Bears and Packers combined to score only 13 in the Thursday night game. I wonder how many prop bets were won on weird stats like this?

Week one is in the books. We don't have another week without NFL football for another five months. If this week is any indication as to how the rest of the season will go, we should all be encouraged. We should also drink plenty of water, diet and exercise because it'll test our health with as exciting as it was.

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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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