WHEELING AND DEALING

Texans trade Tackle Brown to Seattle for DB Lane, draft picks

Duane Brown was shipped to Seattle in a trade on Monday. Tim Warner/Getty Images

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Bob McNair looks like he is not someone to be trifled with. Duane Brown sat out seven weeks of the NFL season because he felt that his contract -- that had no guaranteed money on it -- was not worthy of his status as a top tier left tackle. The only reason he returned to play in week 8 was because the Texans would have been able to void the current year on his contract if he didn't show up by that deadline.

He played well against the Seahawks in his first action back after a long layoff, and now it appears that was an audition for the team he would be traded to.

In a surprising, but not too surprising deal just before the deadline; the Texans have now traded Brown to those same Seahawks for immediate help on the defense and some long-term picks in the draft. Reports indicate the trade consists of the Seahawks receiving Brown and the Texans receiving cornerback Jeremy Lane and a 2018 5th round pick and a 2019 2nd round pick.

Right off the top I see both teams immediately benefitting from the trade. If the 41-38 shootout didn't make the Texans secondary problems obvious then I don't know what to tell you. Lane adds another piece to that group that may help them to long run. In addition, they can surely use all the draft picks they can get after trading away so many to the Cleveland Browns to get Deshaun Watson and to get rid of Brock Osweiler.

Obviously, the Seahawks get a great left tackle to help them shore up their offensive line problems and that can help them stay alive for another playoff run. The Texans will lose their best offensive lineman but since they have managed without him in the first 7 weeks, I don't think they saw it as too much of a loss. 

Brown was also critical of McNair after his now infamous "inmate" comments.

This looks like a win/win for both teams. Brown is a top tier left tackle so the Texans were right to get plenty of compensation. Lane may help them now and Romeo Crennel might be able to put him into the right situations to help the defense. The additional draft picks are always great because the more chances you have to pick good players, the more chances you have to hit on a winner. The Seahawks get to improve up front with a guy who doesn't have guaranteed money on his contract and the ability to negotiate fresh for the few years he has left in the league. The Texans get help now and the chance for more in the future.

 

 

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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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