H-Town Run Tourist: Experiences

Volunteering at the 2019 Speedgolf Championships

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Jovan Abernathy is an international marathoner and owner of Houston Tourism Gym. To claim your free tour, contact her at info@tourismgymhtx.com. Follow her on Twitter @jovanabernathy. Instagram @TourismGymHtx. Facebook @TourismGymHtx

So, the last couple of articles have been about Speedgolf and Speedgolf USA founder, Scott Dawley. Let me tell you about my experiences with the sport and Scott.

​Golf course is so beautiful in the dewy morning.

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It was August of 2015 when we met at his race Links Run. I had so much fun running on the green. It is really the softest surface and I got to take pics and whack some balls at the driving range. I was writing for my own blog called IHopeIComeBackAlive.com and thought this would be great for content. Scott was creating more events strictly for speedgolf. Now, this will make some great content. His next event was the next coming week. He allowed me to tag along with my camera.

That morning, I was to meet Scott at Cypresswood Golf Course at 5AM. I set my alarm for 3AM. It would take 45 minutes to get from my place in Memorial to Spring. I had to remind myself that I owed myself a new experience and to get out of bed.

Cari and Pardon striking a pose!

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It was well worth it. There is nothing like a golf course in the morning when the sun just comes up. Fog is in the air. Dew is on the grass. And moss is hanging from the trees. Footprints in the grass. To get my content, I had to follow the speedgolfers to get great pictures in a golf cart. I had the time of my life. I didn't reallize how fast they could go until I felt like I was having a hard time keeping up in a cart. I got my story and we were done by 6:15AM with plenty to do in the day. It was worth getting up and everyone should have this experience.

October of 2019:

So, four years later I still do not know how to play golf. I flirted with it, but chose to do traveling marathons instead. I do not know even how to swing properly, but when I reconnected with Scott, he had another opportunity for me. This time, I wanted to share it with others. Scott needed volunteers for the 2019 Speedgolf Championships coming up. My volunteers showed up on Saturday, September 29 ready to work.

​Pardon learning his golf swing.

Author’s own

We arrived early to make sure we didn't miss anything. We got to tour the golf course, take pictures, and chill in the grill until Scott called for us. We had a great time getting to know each other over a margarita. (Yeah, I said margarita. See how hard it is to volunteer with Houston Tourism Gym).

Soon Scott come over to tell us what our jobs were. We had to choose our speed golfer that we would be working with. We were to follow them to all 18 holes in a golf cart and keep their score. (Don't worry, we were taught how to do this. By the way, the golfers would yell their swings to us before they moved on to the next hole. Still pretty easy volunteering).

​Pardon and his new golf coach Joey Froman

Author’s own

My speed golfer was David Harding from Lake Oswego, Oregon. I got in my cart and drove to the start hole. I had actually met David earlier, but reintroduced myself. For the next hour and 15 minutes, I gave David my undivided attention. I took this job seriously and knew how much it counted. But, I also got some great pictures.

After the race, I went and gathered my volunteers to see what they had gotten themselves into. I found Cari (from Conroe) at the entrance waiting for her next assignment. I found Pardon (from Zimbabwe) at the driving range whacking some balls. He found a benevolent golfer to teach him how to swing. Everyone had a great time on the golf course, as I knew they would.

To learn more about Speedgolf, visit SpeedGolfUSA or listen to Scott Dawley, founder of Speedgolf USA, on his podcast Pace of Change which can be downloaded from iTunes. Contact him directly at 832.524.9994 or by emailing info@speedgolfusa.com.

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TO BE THE MAN, YOU GOTTA BEAT THE MAN!

The answers in the outfield are becoming clearer than the Astros hoped

*Note: Some Advanced Statistics, courtesy of Baseball Savant, do not include Thursday night's game against the Diamondbacks. Others, courtesy of Fangraphs, do include Thursday night's game*

The Corpus Christi Hooks Twitter account confirmed that Yordan Alvarez is alive and able to take swings, meaning the slugger's return to the Astros lineup is getting closer. Alvarez will get a bulk of the DH at-bats. With Springer being the primary center fielder, and Brantley being the primary left fielder, Dusty Baker will have to choose between Josh Reddick and Kyle Tucker for his primary right fielder. Who should he choose?

How do you boil down picking between two players to one question? What is the most important thing to judge a hitter on? The answer

The better player is the player that does the most damage consistently.

Sounds easy, right? But how do you judge that?

  1. Hard Hit %
  2. BB:K
  3. Contact %

Why these three? Well, hitting the ball hard usually leads to damage, so it is good to hit the ball hard. A player that walks and strikes out roughly the same amount is generally pretty consistent, so BB:K ratios closer to 1:1 (this is extremely rare, and a vast majority of MLB hitters are worse than 1:2) are good. Lastly, players that make contact a lot not only can generally do more of the little things like moving runners over, lifting a ball with a runner on third, or executing a hit & run, but also they generally don't swing and miss at their pitch when they get it. Action happens.

Kyle Tucker has a hard hit % of 38.5% so far in 2020. That is 55th in MLB amongst players with at least 25 batted balls (Tucker has 26). For context, Padres star third baseman Manny Machado is ranked 54th with 38.9%, thorn-in-the-Astros-side Kole Calhoun is t-58th at 37.9%, and Padres star shortstop Fernando Tatis leads the big leagues at 66.7% (wow).

So, more than 1/3rd of the time Tucker makes contact, he hits it hard. That's pretty good...But how often does he make contact?

Tucker has a contact % of 75.6%, meaning he makes contact with the baseball three out of every four times he swings the bat. That is 88th amongst qualified hitters. He is 1% worse than the slumping Jose Altuve, tied with that guy Kole Calhoun again, and about 1% better than the also-slumping George Springer. Tucker is far from elite at putting the bat on the ball, but he isn't terrible either.

However, despite hitting baseball's hard one-third of the time and making contact three-thirds of the time, Tucker strikes out entirely too much. His 29.3% K-rate is the 35th worst in baseball, and he doesn't offset the strikeouts with a lot of walks either. Tucker walks just 7.3% of the time, which is the 62nd lowest. Ultimately, Tucker has a BB:K ratio of 0.25, which is 49th in MLB right now.

Lastly, while it isn't part of the criteria above, Tucker doesn't have a very diverse batted ball portfolio. Tucker hits the ball to the pull side 65% of the time, and he's hit it on the ground 50% of the time. Eventually, teams will start placing heavy shifts on him, and those balls that have snuck through holes in the early parts of the year won't anymore.

But, is Josh Reddick any better? While none of Tucker's numbers blow you away, they aren't terrible, and he's a young prospect that needs playing time to develop.

Reddick has a 31.3% hard hit % so far in 2020, about seven percentage points below Tucker. 31.3% places Reddick in 96th place, between players like Marcus Semien and Yuli Gurriel. So, Tucker has Reddick beat here, but it isn't by a landslide.

Reddick has a contact % of 80.5%, which is 50th in MLB right now. He's better than Tucker by 5%, and he's in the top quartile in baseball. Reddick also sprays the ball around when he makes contact, hitting the ball to center field 43.8% of the time, right field 37.5% of the time, and left field 18.8% of the time. His ground ball rate is also 31%, almost 20% lower than Tucker's. That would explain why Reddick and Tucker's Barrel % (hard hit baseballs hit in the most desired exit velocity) are within a percentage point of one another despite Tucker having a seven point hard hit advantage.

Lastly, Reddick doesn't strike out very much. He strikes out 14% of the time, which is the 34th best K% in baseball (funny enough, Gurriel and Brantley are 33rd and 32nd). While Reddick doesn't walk a ton either, he walks more than Tucker, clocking in four percentage points better at 11.6%. That results in a BB:K ratio of 0.83, which is tied with Bryce Harper and Freddie Freeman for the 30th best in MLB.

Throw in the fact that Reddick plays significantly better defense, and it's really a no-brainer who should play. Astros fans might want the sexier and newer model in Tucker, but it isn't time to trade in old reliable just yet. When Yordan Alvarez returns, Josh Reddick is the right answer in right field.

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