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.

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

ESPN Houston 97.5 FM
Jimbo Fisher and the Aggies have plenty of work to do this offseason. Photo by Alex Bierens de Haan/Getty Images.

After an underwhelming win against one of the worst teams in the nation last Saturday against UMASS, the Aggies looked like they were poised to head into the final game of the year against LSU unmotivated and shorthanded. With rumors of star recruits rushing to the transfer portal, Jimbo Fisher was fighting an uphill battle to topple the fifth-ranked LSU Tigers. In his first year with the Tigers, head coach Brian Kelly has already gotten his squad to the SEC Championship game. That certainly has got to rub Coach Fisher the wrong way as his best finish in the SEC to this point has been second in 2020. But instead of laying down and dying, the Aggies capped off arguably the most disappointing season in program history on Saturday with a signature win for Jimbo Fisher and his program.

The win over LSU wasn't just some fluke win, that was caused by LSU shooting itself in the foot over and over again. The Aggies were just flat-out the better team on Saturday. They won the turnover battle, time of possession, had more passing and rushing yards and were more effective on third downs. The Ags took playing for the seniors like Demani Richardson, Connor Choate and Max Wright to heart and pulled out an impressive and gutsy win. Unfortunately, that performance left a question on the table, where was this all year? To answer that, I want to go back to the first article I wrote this year and dive into how the Maroon and White faired in what I thought would be the key areas.

The three main areas I was watching closely on this team were quarterback play, how many freshmen contributed and how DJ Durkin, the new defensive coordinator performed with his new schemes. First up, quarterback play. The Aggies saw three different starting quarterbacks in the 2022 season. First, Haynes King, who was benched due to performance and injuries. Then Max Johnson, who was knocked out for the season due to injury and finally, Connor Weigman. Weigman only missed one game due to illness but showed in every start that he is worth those five stars he got as a recruit. The position was overall a disappointment but the future is bright going forward with #15 taking the snaps.

Next up, freshman impact. Of the 30 total true freshman on A&M’s roster 16 of them saw significant playing time in 2022 and 23 of them got on the field at some point during the year. With a team so decimated with injuries, many of them got on the field maybe a little sooner than expected. However, they did not disappoint. Many of them had an instant impact, such as Connor Weigman, Donovan Green, Evan Stewart or Bryce Anderson. Not to mention that defensive line… if Jimbo can keep these guys on campus and keep them out of the transfer portal, this team will be dangerous in 2023.

Finally, the new defensive coordinator DJ Durkin had some big shoes to fill in 2022 with Mike Elko’s departure. His unit struggled at times during the year, mostly against the run. As of this writing, the Aggies rank 124th in the nation in run defense. That's not good. But against the pass, they are up in 1st. So for Durkin in his first year, it was the middle of the road. He was far from the biggest problem with the dismal 5-7 season.

With all that being said the 2022 season is in the books. A&M will not go bowling for the first time since 2008 and Jimbo Fisher will have a lot to work on this offseason to get the ship righted. He has already relieved offensive coordinator Darrell Dickey of his duties in what is expected to be the first of many staff changes. Recruiting will be interesting to follow as well, the Ags are not projected to have a recruiting class anywhere near as impressive as last year. All these factors aside, the Aggies will most likely be a preseason top-10 team in 2023 and believe me, I have already started counting down the days until the Aggies take to Kyle Field to face New Mexico on September 2nd.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome