The Couch Slouch

The Slouch's Super Bowl viewing guide (and a special Astros version of Ask the Slouch)

Photo via Kansas City Chiefs/Facebook

History repeats itself, unless it doesn't.

(And they say a University of Maryland education is worthless.)

So here's some history worth repeating: In February 1999, President Clinton, after being impeached by the House of Representatives, was acquitted by the Senate; Super Bowl 33 that year was played in Miami. In February 2020, President Trump, after being impeached by the House, likely will be acquitted by the Senate; Super Bowl 54 this year will be played in Miami.

In Super Bowl 33, the AFC champion Denver Broncos beat the NFC champion Atlanta Falcons, 34-19. In Super Bowl 54, it is almost fated that the AFC champion Kansas City Chiefs will beat the NFC champion San Francisco 49ers by the EXACT SAME SCORE, 34-19.

Wow.

And now, as a public service, I am here to provide my 54th annual Super Bowl Viewing Guide (for Super Bowl Parties of Six or More):

This is the Chiefs' first Super Bowl appearance in 50 years. A lot is being made of this. You know who is tired of hearing it? Fans of the Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions, Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars, the four NFL teams yet to play in a Super Bowl.

Here is a fun Patrick Mahomes factoid. In the 2014 MLB draft, he was selected in the 37th round by the Detroit Tigers. This means that the Tigers have drafted one more Super Bowl quarterback than the Lions have.

Here is a fun Patrick Mahomes observation. He is Stephen Curry in cleats.

I'm not a big nepotism fan – what did my dad ever do for me? – but it sure pays the bills. Mike Shanahan and Kyle Shanahan are the first father-son Super Bowl head-coaching duo; the elder Shanahan won back-to-back titles with the Denver Broncos and son Kyle is the 49ers' honcho. Meanwhile, Joe Buck is calling his sixth Super Bowl for Fox; his dad Jack Buck broadcast Super Bowl 4 on CBS with Pat Summerall.

Family ties are big in sports AND politics. John Adams was the second president (1797-1801) and son John Quincy Adams was the sixth (1825-29). It happened again with George H.W. Bush (1989-93) and George W. Bush (2001-2009). And Donald Trump and Donald Trump Jr. could very well become the first father-son presidential combo to be impeached.

Jimmy Garoppolo apparently completes more passes off the field than on the field. The 49ers quarterback reportedly has dated adult film star Kiara Mia, model Alexandra King and, recently, a VIP bottle-service gal from Sacramento. With the ladies, he makes Tom Brady look like Trent Dilfer.

Here is a controversial take I do not apologize for – on Super Bowl Sunday, dogs are okay and spouses are optional. Toni, a k a She Is The One (And Then Some), will attest to this: I have thrown her out of the house so I can watch in peace, but our beloved pit mix Daisy is allowed to sit by my side, licking herself through endless replay reviews ITAL and END ITAL critical third downs.

There are other, more sobering viewing options on Sunday. For those of you who miss the presence of the New England Patriots, I suggest the three-part Netflix docuseries, Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez.

Your guests deserve wise choices on food and beverage. No to kale, no to quinoa, no to chard, no to coconut water, no to all Budweiser products. Yes to Yuengling, Dr. Brown's Black Cherry soda, San Pellegrino sparkling water, Fritos, olives, capocollo, pigs in a blanket and cacio e pepe.

Super Bowl prop bets are bigger than ever. They're usually bad bets. My favorite? William Hill sports book is offering 9,999-1 odds on the Chiefs scoring exactly four points. Four points? When's the last time an NFL team scored four points? Like, maybe, NEVER. So why waste a dollar? Plus, this should pay 999,999-1, not 9,999-1. Geez.

Only one prop bet is an (almost) sure winner. Heads or tails on the coin flip: It's tails. Trust me. No one has flipped more coins than Couch Slouch. I flip a coin every morning – heads I get dressed, tails I go back to sleep – and I'm in bed almost the entire week.

Ask The Slouch

Special Houston Astros Edition

Q. Will MLB be investigating whether the infamous Cleveland Indians drum-playing fan is actually relaying signs to Indians hitters, or does the team's lack of success make it a moot point? (Dan Cantwell; Albany, N.Y.)

A. Pay the man, Shirley.

Q. Will the Astros be able to hit major league pitching if they don't know what pitch is coming? (Michael Seltz; Alexandria, Va.)

A. Pay the man, Shirley.

Q. Will any win over the Astros in the future be described as a buzzer beater? (John Haluska; Guilderland, N.Y.)

A. Pay the man, Shirley.

Q. How might the Astros have fared if Mitch McConnell were commissioner instead of Rob Manfred? (Joe Salo; Latham, N.Y.)

A. Pay the man, Shirley.

Q. Does MLB' s one-year suspension of A.J. Hinch prevent him from getting a job with the New England Patriots? (Bruce Ellisen; Washington, D.C.)

A. Pay the man, Shirley.

You, too, can enter the $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. Just email asktheslouch@aol.com and, if your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash!

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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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