WWE Wrap-Up

This week in WWE: Champions of Raw and SmackDown Live to face-off at Survivor Series

SmackDown Live took no prisoners at the end of Raw. Photo by WWE.com

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

Raw

“You still got it” chants welcomed Kurt Angle to the ring to open Raw. The general manager, who last wrestled for the WWE eleven years ago, made his return to the ring as an honorary member of The Shield. Angle announced that at this year’s Survivor Series the champions of Raw would be taking on the champions of SmackDown Live. Additionally, the traditional five on five tag match will take place. A woman’s five on five tag match will happen, as well. The Miz raced to the ring to explain his displeasure with Angle. He explained that he had no business replacing Reigns when he could not compete at TLC, and he was going to make him pay for it. As Miz and The Mizterouge surrounded Angle, The Shield came down through the crowd for the save. Angle, then, announced Miz, Cesaro, and Sheamus would be facing Ambrose, Rollins, and AJ Styles, who stayed an extra day after filling in to replace Bray Wyatt in his match against Finn Balor.  That six man tag match was the first match of the night. Booker T explained this fast paced match is something fans should be looking forward to at Survivor Series. The tag champs would dive onto The Miz and Sheamus outside of the ring allowing Styles to finish Cesaro with a Phenomenal Forearm. All of the lights turned red as Kane came down the ramp to lay out the winning team and end their celebration. After a commercial break, Kane remained in the ring to explain why he attacked his partner at TLC, Braun Strowman. Kane was tired of sitting back and watching another man dominate Raw. He, “will always be the only real monster” on the red team. He, then, asked real competition to come down to the ring. Finn Balor answered his challenge.

Kane dominated the early part of the match, but Balor found a glimmer of hope when he tripped him up into the steel steps. Balor attempted to go for his Coup De Gras finisher, but Kane would catch him from the top rope. Three Choke Slams later, Kane would pin Balor to win the match. SmackDown Live commissioner, Shane McMahon,  met up with Kurt Angle backstage. The two exchanged jokes about how much better their respective brand is. Asuka made her debut on Raw after Emma asked for a rematch after their match at TLC. Emma attempted to roll up Asuka, but she would counter the pin and submit Emma with her Asuka Lock finisher. Woman’s Champion, Alexa Bliss, talked about her match at Survivor Series against SmackDown Live’s Women’s Champion, Natalya. She, then, went on to insult fans for their lack of appreciation for her. Mikey James grew tired of Bliss and laid her out in the center of the ring. Elias had his rematch with Jason Jordan after the controversial finish to their match at TLC. Just when it looked like Jordan was gaining the upper hand, Elias shattered his guitar into Jordan’s shoulder causing him to lose the match via disqualification.

Brock Lesnar’s advocate, Paul Heyman, had a lot to say about the WWE Champion, Jinder Mahal. Last week, Mahal challenged the Universal Champion to a match at Survivor Series. Heyman explained that he respected every single opponent who challenged Lesner, but he does not respect Mahal. He is nothing but a “conciliation prize champion”, and Lesnar should have no problems with him in four weeks at Survivor Series. The captain of the Raw Woman’s team for Survivor Series was decided in a triple threat match between Sasha Banks, Bayley, and Alicia Fox. Banks would place Fox in the Banks Statement, but Fox would find a way to escape. She would, then, shove Banks into Bayley, and pin Bayley to win the match. Alicia Fox will captain the Raw team. The team of Kalisto, Gran Metalik, Mustafa Ali, Rich Swann, and Cedric Alexander took on Enzo Amore, Noam Dar, Dew Gulak, Tony Neese, and Divari. The baby face team would clear the ring of Enzo’s goons allowing Kalisto to pin Amore with the Salida del Sol. Kurt Angle came to the ring to close Raw by announcing who would be representing the brand at Survivor Series. Before he could even speak, Shane McMahon and several SmackDown Live competitors came to the ring through the crowd. “Under Siege”, said McMahon into the mic as his team raced backstage to attack who ever they could find from the Raw roster.

Highlight of the Night: The SmackDown Live invasion. Is it confusing to see the moral compass of the blue brand, Becky Lynch, ambushing who ever she could find backstage, sure. But it was the moment where the build for Survivor Series began.

SmackDown Live

Shane McMahon opened SmackDown Live boasting over the blue brand’s ambush on Raw the night before. He would, then, face off with Sami Zayn for the first time since Zayn got involved in McMahon’s match with Kevin Owens. Zayn told McMahon that Owens and him would represent the blue team at Survivor Series because they know how much he needs them. McMahon would, instead, explain to Zayn that he will only represent the blue brand if he defeated Randy Orton. The New Day took on Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable in the first match of the night. Benjamin and Gable would win the match after Benjamin blindsided Woods with a kick to the back, allowing Gable to pin him for the win. Breezango and The Ascension returned with another episode of Fashion Files and another tribute to Quintin Tarantino with a parody of Reservoir Dogs. Daniel Bryan expressed his frustrations with Shane McMahon. He was not too fond of SmackDown Live’s attack on Raw. Baron Corbin would lose via disqualification for the second week in a row to Sin Cara. After the loss, Corbin dragged Sin Cara to the outside and hit him with his End of Days finisher.

Jinder Mahal responded to Paul Heyman, or, as he put it, “The Human Walrus.” AJ Styles interrupted Mahal and faced off against Sunil Singh. The match ended almost as soon as it started as Styles submitted the Singh Brother with The Calf Crusher. Becky Lynch, Naomi, Tamina, Carmella, and Charlotte Flair participated in a fatal five way to determine who would captain SmackDown Live’s Women’s team at Survivor Series. Becky Lynch would be named captain after submitting Carmella with her Disarmer finisher. Bobby Roode challenged Dolph Ziggler to a Two out of Three Falls match on next week’s episode of SmackDown Live. Sami Zayn took on Randy Orton in the main event. Kevin Owens tried to get involved in the match, but it ended up costing Zayn. Orton returned Zayn’s low blow from last week and finished him off with an RKO. He will be the first member of the blue team at Survivor Series.

Highlight of the Night:

Sami Zayn’s exchange with Shane McMahon. He has new found confidence. Genuinely, he’s filling the roll of the guy who broke bad really well. He’s an accessory to Kevin Owens, and we are seeing a side to him we have never seen in a WWE ring.

How do they Compare?

Raw gets the edge this week, but only because of the invasion from Shane McMahon and the SmackDown Live roster. Just like the blue team invaded Raw, we should see the red team ambush SmackDown Live. This should lead to some awesome brawls and face-offs like we saw this week. I am fairly confident that we will see several weeks of consistent television with all the meshing between the brands. That is going to make it harder for me to choose who had the better week, but it will, without  a doubt, make the build to Survivor Series stronger.

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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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