Falcon Points

Texans continue to make off-field news for all the wrong reasons

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It's hard to know what the Texans are as an organization right now. While every team has off-field controversies and issues, the Texans have taken it to a new level over the past few months. They have made significantly more news off the field than on it, and most of it has not been good. While things might still work out this season, the off-season has made them look disorganized, rudderless and like they are flying by the seat of their pants.


Key moment?

The issues probably started with the draft, when the Eagles traded up one spot ahead of the Texans to take tackle Andre Dillard. The Texans then took Tytus Howard, who was not nearly as highly regarded. Reports since then are that the Texans were never that high on Dillard, but that was likely spin control. They got out-maneuvered for a player who could have helped immediately.

All hell breaks lose

In the time after, the Texans fired GM Brian Gaine, who had barely been on the job for more than a year. Gaine had been head coach Bill O'Brien's hand-picked choice. A few days later, a lawsuit came out alleging racist practices by the Texans. While the lawsuit may or may not have merit, it was yet another bad look.

Things looked even worse when they team tried to pursue New England's Nick Caserio, who was still under contract.

After that, they simply decided not to have a GM. While it may work, again, yet another bad look.

Then they punted on running back D'Onta Foreman, a third-round pick from just three years ago, necessitating a trade with Cleveland to get Duke Johnson, which could cost them another third round pick. While a good move, once again, the optics are poor.

More fallout

One of the reported issues with Gaine was how to deal with Jadeveon Clowney's contract situation. Clowney is on the franchise tag and has yet to report. Rumors have begun to swirl that the team is looking to trade him. Of course, with rumors, you have to wonder where they come from. Clowney's agents? O'Brien's people often leak info that makes him look favorable. Did they do it to see what the reaction would be?

Regardless, the entire situation is yet another bad look. If they had decided to move on from Clowney, the time to trade him would have been before the draft. It's unlikely you can get fair value for him now. Yes, if you could get a legitimate offensive tackle or lead cornerback, it might be worth it. But are those players really available?

Cooler heads?

The smart move would be to simply wait for Clowney to report, play him this season, tag him a second time and trade him next year when you get more value. But who is making that decision? O'Brien? The mysterious Jack Easterby? Cal McNair?

Let's not forget Cal McNair's corporate speak description of the GM arrangement. "It's a flatter organization with a faster management style," he said. "The organization is totally re-energized with a team-based approach and new leadership based on sub programs with each sub program being fully optimized as a goal.

"I know it's a lot, but it's a lot of improvements and we can't wait to get out of the office on the fields and get back to winning football games."

"Flatter" organization. "Sub programs." Word salad. Will all that lead to the right decisions? Who knows? The no-GM thing might actually work. Depending on how the Clowney situation plays out, of course. Otherwise, it's just another bad look for a team that is making more noise off the field that on it.

One of the biggest mistakes pro sports franchise owners make is trying to run it like their other successful businesses. McNair is talking like just such an owner. And more voices will mean more leaks. None of this will matter if the team succeeds on the field. But with one bad look after another? Fans should be concerned.

Will McNair be right? Will they get back to winning football games? For now, that has become a sub plot. Or a sub program. Whatever it is, if the Texans fail on the field, it will be the worst look of all.

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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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