Every-Thing Sports

Not all athletes are divas

lancemccullersjrfoundation.org

In today's information age, the news cycle is almost 24 hours. Sometimes, it can be a matter of minutes depending on what news drops, when it drops, who drops it, and how it's dropped. Houston was a prime example of this in early November 2017. The Astros had just clinched the World Series title in a thriller of a game seven from the Dodgers in Los Angeles. The hearts of Houston sports fans fell as the next day they learned Texans' star rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson was to miss the remainder of the season with a torn ACL. I could hear a collective "Damn! Damn! Damn!" across the city and surrounding areas.

Most of the time, we hear about all bad stuff. Murders. Fires. Horrible accidents. Civil unrest. Athletes and the sports world are no different. Often times, you'll hear about injuries and run-ins with the law or other ill-timed/ill-fated incidents. The Antonio Browns of the sporting world will garner the most attention with their diva-esque antics and attitudes. However, there are other athletes out there that are doing some good that should be celebrated. Let's take a look at some of the ones who should be celebrated:

Lance McCullers Jr.

I'm not a pet person. Working my full time job for 16 years in the cleaning industry, I've seen what pets can do and how much they can cost you. However, I have a serious soft spot for my wife and kids. So when they wanted to adopt a dog say no to Max. He's a Chiweenie with a great personality and a penchant for FRAP-ing (Frequent Random Activity Period). McCullers has a heart for animals, especially dogs. Through his foundation, he helps match pets and families for adoption. McCullers has kept up his fight throughout his recovery from Tommy John surgery this season. He also walks the walk by being the owner of several dogs himself. He's the headline pic for this article if you didn't know.

Steph Curry

Steph Curry vs. James Harden. Getty Images.

I know how much grief Curry has caused Houston Rocket fans over the years and I get it. But with the recent story of him sponsoring the Howard University men's and women's golf program for the next six years is worthy of some praise. To put this in perspective: the golf program has been absent from the school for about 40 years. With his support, it has the chance to be the first Division I athletic program at the school's history. Not many athletes commit such a huge financial undertaking for a school they didn't attend. It took a chance meeting with a student who chose to forgo golf to attend the school to spark Curry's interest. He may be a Rocket killer, be he's a community builder.

LeBron James

Lakers LeBron James Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

LeBron James is a polarizing figure in the world of sports. Some see the NBA great as a glory hog, others see him as a challenger to the GOAT crown in basketball. No matter which side of the argument you fall, you can't question his philanthropy. Whether it's the "I Promise" school he helped start, or the kids he's given college scholarships to, LeBron has made sure to give back to the community he grew up in Northeast Ohio. People can say what they want about him, but his philanthropy can never be questioned.

Chris Long

Getty Images

Talk about putting your money where your mouth is. Chris Long exemplifies that statement. For the 2017 season, Long donated his remaining game checks that season to helping kids in each of the cities he's played for in St. Luois, Boston, and Philly. He's been very outspoken on social justice issues and has won the NFL's Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, as well as ESPN's Humanitarian Award earlier this year.

There's a ton of other athletes out there who should be lsited here as well. Alas, I don't have the time to name them all. If there are other athletes who you feel are anti-dumbass, anti-diva, and/or anti-foolishness who actually use their platform to help and/or support positive causes, please highlight them instead of giving some of the less-deserving thwe attention they so desperatley do not need. The Antonio Browns of thw world don't need anymore attention. Let's spotlight the positives instead of thwe tomfoolery.

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

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.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome