WWE Wrap-Up

This week in WWE: Braun is going to ‘Mania while dreams come true on SDL

Braun caused utter confusion when he won the Tag Battle Royal by himself. Photo by WWE.com

This is a weekly look at the action in the WWE:

Raw

Kurt Angle announced to the crowd in Detroit that Brock Lesnar would not be appearing, despite being advertised. Roman Reigns came to the ring upset beyond belief. He demanded repercussions that he knew would not occur for Lesnar missing another appearance. He raced to the back to “break the fourth wall” and confronted Vince McMahon. After a commercial break, McMahon spoke to Renee Young to assure the audience that Brock WILL appear next week, and to announce that Reigns had been suspended for his “lack of respect.” Sasha Banks, with a reluctant Bayley on her side, defeated Sonya Deville via the Banks Statement. Bayley walked away as soon as the match ended, leaving Banks vulnerable to an attack from Absolution. The Miz hosted an episode of Miz TV to try to instigate a fight between his ‘Mania opponents, Seth Rollins and Finn Balor. The two bantered back and forth, but saw through Miz’s game. They cleared the ring from him before Rollins surprised Balor with an uppercut. The Bar had an “open invitation” for any tag team willing to face them at ‘Mania. This caused a brawl to break out between every single tag team on Raw.

John Cena did what he “was told not to do”: issue a challenge to the Undertaker at WrestleMania. He explained how the only reason the match was not happening was because of Taker’s ego. Angle explained to The Bar that they will find out who their ‘Mania opponents will be after a Tag Team Battle Royal. Balor and Rollins faced off in a singles match. Rollins hit Balor with a monstrous Superplex, but Balor was able to roll him up to steal the win. The WWE announced a Women’s Battle Royal named after The Fabulous Moolah to take place at WrestleMania.  

Asuka came out to explain why she chose to challenge Charlotte at Mania, not Alexa. The Champion came out to explain Asuka chose correctly since she would not have been able to beat her. Asuka paraphrased Charlotte’s dad when explaining why she challenged Charlotte: “To be the Woman, you’ve got to beat the Woman.” Mickie James surprised her with a cheap shot. This led to a match between the two that Asuka easily won. Nia Jax defeated an enhancement talent. Alexa Bliss and Mickie James, unaware that the mics around them were hot, spoke foully of Jax after her match. They, of course, ran away when they realized their mistake leaving Jax to run around the arena looking for her former friends. Another promo package aired for the Ultimate Deletion match between Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt. The Tag Team Battle Royal closed the show, and Braun Strowman decided to throw himself into the match to contend for the Raw Tag Team Championships. It came down to Karl Anderson and Braun Strowman.  “I’m going to WrestleMania,” yelled Strowman as he chunked Anderson out of the ring to win the Battle Royal.

SmackDown

AJ Styles opened the show celebrating his win at Fastlane and hyping the fans up for his match against Nakamura at WrestleMania. This prompted Nakamura to come to the ring, he explained how dreams come true at Mania, and his dream is to be WWE Champion. Rusev faced AJ Styles in the opening match of the night. Styles was about to lock up Rusev in a Calf Crusher, but Aiden English rushed into the ring to attack the Champion. Nakamura jumped into the ring to help out Styles. Big E and Jimmy Uso spoke backstage about putting their differences aside to challenge The Bludgeon Brothers, who viciously attacked both teams at Fastlane. They decided to work together and tag against The Bludgeon Brothers. They did what they could to get some revenge for their partners, but it was not enough as the Brothers would go on to win the match. Backstage, Sami Zayn spoke about Shane McMahon and Kevin Owens ruining his opportunity to become WWE Champion at Fastlane.

Charlotte and Asuka faced off in the ring to talk about their match up at ‘Mania. Charlotte admitted that she was hoping Asuka would choose her after winning the Rumble. Asuka has never lost, but she has never faced someone like Charlotte. Jinder Mahal defeated Bobby Roode with a Khallas. United States Champion, Randy Orton, jumped into the ring to congratulate him with an RKO.  Carmella defeated Naomi after dragging her down from the ropes from her hair and rolling her up. Shane McMahon closed SmackDown with a special announcement: he will be taking a leave of absence as SmackDown Live Commissioner. Before stepping down, though, he scheduled Sami Zayn vs Kevin Owens at WrestleMania. The two thanked McMahon for the matchup by viciously attacking him.

The path is clear to WrestleMania

It was an interesting week. Not many matches were announced, but we do have clarity of where pieces will seem to fit in the grand scheme. The biggest highlight was perhaps Strowman inserting himself, and winning, a shot at the Raw Tag Team Championships. My hope is that he is not forced to find a partner. Looking back to when The Bar helped the Miz and Kane get rid of Braun at TLC last year, this would be an awesome payoff to that.

SmackDown announced no new matches, although, we did get exchanges for both of the top titles. What seems to be clear, though, is that we will see a few multi-men, or multi-team, matches announced in the coming weeks.

Finally, the Fabulous Moolah Battle Royal is a big story. The name is completely tasteless. A quick google search will show you Moolah was an absolute horrible person who probably did more damage to Women’s Wrestling than she did to “push it forward.” That being said, the Battle Royal will allow those left off of the card an opportunity to have a match at  ‘Mania. It’s unfortunate that someone like Becky Lynch or Mickie James would have nothing to do at the biggest show of the year, but this seems like the only solution. Like with most stuff in WWE, we have to take the good with the undesirably bad.

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Tucker looks like the real deal. Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

Kyle Tucker finally had his breakout season in 2020. The 23-year-old flashed potential to be a legitimate five-tool threat. He slashed .268/.325/.512, swiped eight bags, and played above average defense. Is Tucker's performance sustainable? Not only that, but is there room for growth?

Hard Hit % - 44.5%

Barrel % - 9.1%

K % - 20.2%

BB % - 7.9%
Chase % - 26.2%

The first thing to realize with Kyle Tucker is the small sample size at the MLB level. Despite appearing in three separate seasons, he's played in a total of 108 games, which is obviously quite a bit shy of even one full season. He also has an extremely unique swing that you wouldn't teach to anybody, but it "works" for him. This makes him a tough hitter to judge, as it's uncomfortable judging mechanics that work for him, and it's uncomfortable judging numbers that haven't had time to develop trends.

Hard Hit, Barrel, and Chase numbers are unavailable for the minors, but walk and strikeouts percentages are. This creates the ability to at least look at one trend.

Tucker broke onto the scene in 2018 with a monstrous season for AAA Fresno, the Astros affiliate at the time. In 2018, Tucker slashed .332/.400/.590 with 24 homers and 20 steals. He had an 18.1% K% and a 10.3% BB% that season. In 2019, Tucker struck out a little bit more (21.6%) but also walked a little bit more (11.2%). Tucker's 20.2% K% in 2020 is more in line with his minor league K%, indicating he's adjusted to major league pitching.

Tucker essentially put the pieces of contact ability and quality of contact from his previous MLB stints together in 2020. In 2018, Tucker didn't strike out very much (18.1% K%), but his 3.9% Barrel % didn't strike fear in any opponent.

In 2019, Tucker had a 12.8% Barrel %, and his 92 MPH average exit velocity is the best of his three seasons in MLB, but he struck out 27.8% of the time and walked just 5.6% of the time.

In 2020, there's a marriage between the two. His K% and BB% aren't as good as his 2018 marks, but they're better than his 2019 marks. His exit velocity and Barrel % aren't as good as his 2019 marks, but they're better than his 2018 marks. Tucker became a hitter that was able to do more damage without sacrificing consistency.

Tucker had a xBA of .267, which is right in line with his .268 average. His .459 xSLG lags behind his .512 actual SLG, but it isn't a catastrophic drop. The version of Tucker Astros fans saw is essentially who he is, but how does he improve?

What really unlocked Tucker in 2020 was a change in his setup.

Image via: GraysonSkweres/Twitter/Screenshot

Here he is on August 2nd against the Angels. As you can see, he's standing pretty straight up, and he has a "neutral" stance. Following the game on Aug. 2, Tucker was batting .200/.250/.300 with no homers.

Image via: GraysonSkweres/Twitter/Screenshot

Here's Tucker on August 6th, just a few days later. He's started to close off his stance just a bit, but he's still pretty neutral, and he has a little more forward body lean with his torso. Following the game on Aug. 6, he was batting .214/.267/.357 with a homer.

Image via: GraysonSkweres/Twitter/Screenshot

Now, here's Tucker on August 10th. His stance is considerably closed off, and he's maintaining the forward body lean he adopted on August 6th. Following the game on Aug. 10, Tucker was batting .190/.230/.328. It would be the last time any of those numbers would be that low the rest of the year. He maintained that stance for the rest of the season, and he finished the month of August hitting .272/.333/.588.

The swing change allowed him to be a factor on the outside pitch. Tucker would pull off on his front side, which made it tough for him to keep balls fair on the pull side. He'd often yank inside fastballs into the stands down the right field line. It also made him uncompetitive on outside strikes, as he'd either swing-and-miss, or roll them over into the shift.

After he made the change, Tucker started steering inside pitches fair, and he was able to do something with pitches on the outer third.

The next step is finding a way to continue to diversify his batted ball profile. Tucker's pull percentage in 2020 was 47%. That's a higher pull % than guys like Kyle Schwarber and Matt Olson. It was only 1% lower than Rangers outfielder Joey Gallo.

The one dimensional batted ball profile allows teams to shift Tucker aggressively. Teams shifted Tucker in 74% of his at-bats. His wOBA against the shift is .304. In AB's where teams didn't shift him, Tucker had a .455 wOBA. The shift hurts Tucker more than most as well, because he hits the ball on the ground 39% of the time. Gallo and Olson hit it on the ground 32% and 35% of the time respectively.

Lastly, Tucker's performance on breaking balls leaves a lot to be desired. He crushes fastballs, as he batted .303 with a .574 SLG against fastballs in 2020, with a .292 xBA and .528 xSLG. His .208 AVG and .396 SLG against breaking balls aren't very good, and his .209 xBA and .340 xSLG don't tell a prettier story. His 32% whiff % against breaking balls is nearly double his whiff % on fastballs.

If Tucker can learn to be more competitive against breaking balls and learn to use the whole field, then he'll be a really scary hitter. If he doesn't, teams will be able to gameplan for him, and he'll see streaky production similar to other one dimensional hitters like Matt Carpenter and the aforementioned Gallo and Olson.

While the bat may be streaky, Tucker brings it with the glove and on the bases. He had 5 DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) in the outfield in 2020, a 0.6 UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating), and he was plus-4 in Outs Above Average. His well above average speed and instincts give him the ability to be a rangy outfielder and dangerous baserunner.

Tucker had a breakout season in 2020, but there's still changes left to be made if he wants to be a breakout star and not a one hit wonder.

This is part four of an offseason series covering the 2020 Houston Astros. Be sure to check out parts 1-3 on SportsMap.

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