Every-Thing Sports

The Clowney saga continues to take twists and turns

Zach Tarrant/Houstontexans.com

The Jadeveon Clowney contract saga with the Texans took a sharp turn today. Rumors persisted that the Texans had a deal on the table to send Clowney to the Miami Dolphins, but Clowney refused to sign long term with them (h/t to John Granato for the tweet and my guy Daniel B for alerting me to it). There was also another tweet by @ThePatrickStorm that alluded to the same thing that Daniel alerted me to as well. While it has been speculated for some time now, the tea leaves are finally giving us a read on how this situation will end for Clowney and the Texans. How did it come to this? What is Bill O'Brien's role in all of this? What's the endgame here? Let's take a look at some of the factors from my point of view:

Clowney drafted in O'Brien's first season

Clowney was drafted number one overall a few months after O'Brien was hired as the Texans head coach in 2014. There was speculation that he wasn't the hardest worker due to some off-hand comments by his college coach Steve Spurrier. Clowney was (and still is) a physical freak. His infamous hit on Michigan's Vincent Smith in the bowl game of his sophomore year made his legend grow even more. However, was he truly an O'Brien pick? Or was this a Rick Smith pick? This could be where the friction between the two started.

The injuries

His rookie year was marred by injuries. A concussion, meniscus tear, and eventually microfracture surgery hampered his first year in the league. Despite reports to the contrary, he was able to put the injuries behind him and come back the following year making nine starts and playing in 13 games overall that year. Who comes back from microfracture surgery the following year and performs at a high level? Someone that works his ass off, that's who!

The breakout season and beyond

In 2016, Clowney earned his first All Pro and Pro Bowl selections, as well as being named to the NFL Network Top 100 players by his peers ( number 49). In 2017, he was named to another Pro Bowl and ranked #32 on the Top 100 list. In 2018, he had arguably his best season as a pro, earned another Pro Bowl nod, but was ranked #63 on the Top 100 list. He played 2018 under the fifth year option, which typically signifies a team's willingness to resign a promising young player if they prove themselves. However, it is my belief his fate was decided on January 1, 2018 when it ewas announced that the Texans would hire a new general manger to replace Rick Smith who was taking a "leave of absence" to tend to his sick wife. This was about eight months after Clowney's fifth year option was picked up.

The GM saga

After Rick Smith and the Texans "parted ways", Brian Gaine was brought in as the general manager. He wasn't their first choice, but he was someone who O'Brien was "in sync" with. It seemed as if O'Brien won his power struggle with Smith and got a guy in whom he could control. That lasted all of 18 months as Gaine was fired earlier this year. The organization's infactuation with the New England Patriots continued as they hired Jack Easterby away from the Pats as their new Executive Vice President of Team Development and tried to get him to lure Nick Caserio away at the Pats' ring ceremony. This went down in Hindenburg fashion as the Pats leveled tampering charges, despite Caserio having an illegal clause in his contract. It led to the Texans now having a GM by committee for the upcoming season. Gaine was rumored to be pro-Clowney, while O'Brien was rumored to be anti-Clowney. I assmue Easterby said what he had to say to get the job, and/or cashed the bigger check the Texans wrote him. Again, O'Brien holds all the cards here as his death grip on this franchise grows.

The endgame

As stated earlier, the rumors are hot and heavy as to what will happen with Clowney and where he will play in the future. I have long held the position that if a team doesn't want to resign a player to a long-term deal, they should deal said player to get something in return. Clowney and the Texans are no different. While I believe he should retire a Texan because of his otherworldly ability, they appear as if they don't want to committ to him long term. Therefore, I think they need to trade him to get more than a compensatory pick as compensation for losing a generational talent. This should've happened a long time ago, but O'Brien has dragged this organization further into mediocrity as the years go by. I wrote about a month ago that I believe his ego could be the death of this organization. It seems as if he holds the Texans organization by the balls and will use it to get what he wants until his grip is no more. Ultimately, I think Clowney will get dealt and the Texans will get back more than a compensatory third round pick, but much less than what they could've gotten had they dealt him much sooner. If he doesn't get dealt this season, he will report at some point. He stands to make about $1million/week if he signs the franchise tag and reports every week of the regular season. He can continue to holdout seeking a hardline stance and go the LeVeon Bell route of holding out the entire season, or reporting in week 10 to get that year of service and risk getting tagged again the following year for 120% of the previous year's salary. This situation will be interesting to watch play out. O'Brien seems as if he will get his way by evidenced of him consistently getting his way since he's been hired. Clowney will get moved and it will be another feather in the cap of O'Brien, or the final straw that broke the camel's back. I lean towards the latter since O'Brien has proven to be nothing more than a Bill Belichek wannabe who is more style than substance. Here's to hoping this situation can end happily for Texans' fans. They have become the team who's thisclosetobeinggood, but can't get out of their own way. Here's to hoping they become more.

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

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.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome