WWE wrap-up

This week in WWE: The Miz makes life tough on Reigns

The Miz and Miztourage pummel Reigns with steel chairs. Photo by WWE.com

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

Raw

Raw began with The Miz’s “hit show” Miz TV. This week, his guest was Roman Reigns. After being antagonized by The Miz, Roman asked the crowd if they’d be interested in seeing him beat Miz tonight. Of course, The Miz was not fond of that idea. As he tried to exit the stage, Kurt Angle came out and announced that they would be in fact facing off. Raw’s first match of the night saw The Mizterouge take on Matt Hardy and Jason Jordan, with the latter team picking up the win via Hardy’s Twist of Fate. Elias would pick up a win after defeating Apollo Crews. Elias would attack Crews’ manager, Titus O’Niel, in order to cause a distraction and pick up the win. Kurt Hawkins would challenge anyone to face him in the ring. He would end up regretting that decision, as Braun Strowman chased him through the arena before slamming him through a monitor. Strowman would, then, return to the ring and ask for “real competition” to make their way to the ring. Raw Tag Team Champion, Dean Ambrose, answered Strowman’s call.

Their match would kick off the second hour of the show. Ambrose did all he could to bring down Strowman, but it would not be enough as Strowman would be the victor via a Power Slam. New Cruiserweight Champion, Enzo Amore would ask Kurt Angle for a party to celebrate his championship. Angle would, instead, attempt to advise Amore, but Amore would not have any of it. Raw Women’s Champion, Alexa Bliss, would make her way to the ring to air out her grievances with the WWE Universe. Bliss would explain that the fans were ungrateful for not cheering for her despite her “cleaning out the entire division”. This would prompt Mickey James to make her way to the ring. Bliss would explain to James that there was no place in the division for a veteran like her. This would prompt James to attack Bliss as she cower away. Seth Rollins would defeat Sheamus with a knee to the face. Sheamus’ partner, Cesaro, would watch from the outside after suffering a serious injury to his mouth at No Mercy. Goldust would attack Finn Balor backstage after Balor “took shots” at his expense when talking about their issues with Bray Wyatt.

The match between The Miz and Roman Reigns finally arrived at the start of the last hour. Roman Reigns would go on to win the match, but The Mizterouge would attack Reigns before he could even celebrate his win. The group would stand over Reigns mocking him and his former team, The Shield. Finn Balor would get his revenge over Goldust by defeating him with his Coup De Grace finisher. Sasha Banks and Bayley took on Nia Jax and Emma in a tag team match. Bailey and Banks would go on to win the match after Bayley hit Emma with her Bayley to Belly Suplex. Enzo Amore would close Raw celebrating his Cruiserweight Title win at No Mercy. The entire cruiserweight division could only watch from the ramp since Angle granted Amore a “no contact” clause. Neville, the former champion, would go on to ignore Amore’s clause and attack him. Raw closed with Neville hitting Amore with his Red Arrow finish.

Highlight of the Night: The Miz and The Mizterouge teasing fans with a Shield reunion. Fans have been clamoring for Reigns, Ambrose, and Rollins to reunite. Whether it happens or not is still to be seen, but, man, is the Miz making fans want it more.

SmackDown Live

Kevin Owens started this week’s episode of SmackDown Live. His feud with Shane McMahon has been heating up. Owens, again, talked about his attack on Vince McMahon. He explained to Shane that he actually liked and respected his father, and if he could do what he did to someone he liked and respected, then imagine what he “could do to someone he didn’t”. Sami Zayn, Owens’ former best friend, came down to the ring and attempt to talk sense to him. This, of course, wouldn’t work as both men just exchanged insults instead. Before they could even fight, though, Daniel Bryan made his way to the ring to announce they would be facing off in the main event. Baron Corbin defeated Tye Dillinger via count out after throwing Dillinger into AJ Styles, who was on commentary for their match. Corbin would, then, go on to explain he'd be taking no short cuts and challenged Styles to a match at Hell In the Cell. Shinsuke Nakamura attacked Mahal and The Signh Brothers after three weeks of them mocking and insulting him. The Hype Bro’s inability to be on the same page against The Usos would cost them the match. After the match, The Usos antagonized their opponents at Hell in a Cell, The New Day. The tag champs would respond by telling them that their match next month would now be inside a cell.

Rusev started the second hour celebrating his nine-second win against Randy Orton last week. The “mayor” of his hometown in Bulgaria awarded Rusev with a key to a city and declared September 26 Rusev Day. Aden English helped with the celebration by singing a Rusev Day song. The celebration was cut short when Randy Orion surprised English and Rusev with RKOs. Charlotte Flair defeated Carmella. SmackDown Live’s Women’s Champion, Natalya made her way to the ring. She would explain to Flair that she was happy her father was doing better. That way, he could watch his daughter fail at Hell in a Cell. Dolph Ziggler continued his weekly rant about how flashy entrances mean nothing when a wrestler is not as good as him. This time, he imitated The Undertaker. Before he could go too far into his rant, he was interrupted by Bobby Roode who challenged him to a match, which Ziggler accepted, at Hell in a Cell. Owens vs Zayn closed the show with a great back and forth match. The match was stopped when Zayn couldn’t get up after an Apron Power Bomb by Owens. As Zayn was getting carried away by the medical staff, Owens continued to attack him. Before he could devastate Zayn with a chair, Shane McMahon made his way down to the ring for the save. Owens would escape from the ring by throwing Zayn into Owens to close the show.

Highlight of the night: Randy Orton’s RKO out of nowhere to Aiden English. English has embraced his role in the mid card as a singing, comedic, wrestler. Seeing him get surprised by Orton as he sang a song for Rusev Day was absolutely great.

How do they compare? Raw kept the ball rolling after a good pay per view in No Mercy. WWE, typically, does a good job carrying over the momentum from their events to the night after Raw. This was absolutely the case this week. We saw some great tag matches, a great surprise match in Ambrose and Strowman, and even the seeds being planted for a Shield reunion. Raw even closed the show with an interaction between Amore and Neville worthy of a main event segment. With Hell in a Cell two weeks away, SmackDown is continuing to lay the foundation for a good pay per view. Shane and Owens has heated up to be a main event feud, the mid card feuds feel relevant, and we finally get to see Bobby Roode on a big show for the blue brand. Both shows provided fans with exciting matches, good promos, and comedic relief. Despite SmackDown pushing the right buttons as they build Hell in a Cell, I have to give this week to Raw. The way they kept the ball rolling after a good pay per view is very encouraging. With TLC still three weeks away, it will be interesting to see how well they keep up this momentum. But, if these past few weeks have been a true indications of what to come, then we are in for a treat.

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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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