A WEEKLY REVIEW OF O'BRIEN'S CRENNEL'S COACHING

​Now​ my job: Big win for the Texans and Romeo Crennel

The team looked better without O'Brien. Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images

The Texans came away with a big win Sunday besting the Jags 30-14. It was a huge win. The biggest win of the season. Bigly. It was the best. I'd go as far as to say this was the best win this team has had ever!

Enough with the superlatives. This was a good win. I was impressed by the way the coaching staff handled things. They put the players in position to execute and the players did just that.

At 73 years and 115 days, Romeo Crennel was the oldest coach in NFL history. He's also the oldest to win a game. The offense and defense looked different, and for the better. Let's take a look at some of the things that I found that were worthy of praise, and criticism:

The output of the offense was impressive. Deshaun Watson threw for 359 yards and three touchdowns. David Johnson ran for 96 yards. Will Fuller, Darren Fells, and Brandin Cooks each caught touchdown passes from Watson. Cooks caught eight passes for 161 yards. The offense looked fluid and was productive. The biggest difference I saw was Watson checking into and out of plays. You could tell he was more comfortable checking in and out of plays at the line of scrimmage. The no huddle and/or sugar huddle was executed perfectly. Keeping things up-tempo kept the Jags off guard and kept the Texans in rhythm. Watson did throw two picks. The first was all on him, but the second wasn't. At first, David Johnson looked like the complete bust that he's been the last few years. He regained some life and looked good later on. The zone split run play was a favorite. The tight end would motion then block across the line of scrimmage, while the offensive line would zone block to the inside. Johnson had some of his best runs off this play. Major props to Tim Kelly as the offensive coordinator for recognizing what he has, what it's capable of, and calling plays accordingly.

Anthony Weaver called a good game on defense. It was scary at first because they couldn't stop the Jags. Too many times they weren't getting pressure and were getting burned. Eventually, the blitzes dialed up started causing trouble. They even found a way to get two turnovers! They were their first two turnovers of the season and they came at the right times. Several times down the stretch as they were nursing a lead, the pressure caused incompletions, led to sacks, or a turnover. Sure it was the Jags, but it was a win and a much-needed flex of some muscle on both sides of the ball.

The elephant in the room undoubtedly will be if this was done because of or in spite of Bill O'Brien's absence. One can only speculate. Time will tell. They have the Titans, Packers, and Jags again in their next three games. If they somehow pull away from that stretch 4-4, I'll be more impressed. The Packers are a Super Bowl favorite in the NFC and will not be easy. The Titans are solid, but beatable, and they just beat the Jags. 4-4 at the half point puts them in position to make the playoffs still. Even a 3-5 record leaves them an outside shot, especially considering the extra playoff spot. Here's to us finding out if O'Brien's absence is addition by subtraction! Cheers!

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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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