WWE Wrap-Up

This week in WWE: Post-WrestleMania shows were a breath of fresh air

Paige had an interesting week as she retired on Monday and became the GM of SmackDown on Tuesday. Photo by WWE.com

Raw

Stephanie McMahon opened the show with a sling on her arm after sustaining an injury from her match with Ronda Rousey. She then brought out Ronda to congratulate her and tried to recruit and put her in her corner. Ronda responded by putting her in an Arm Bar on the same arm she injured at WrestleMania. “You deserve it” chants welcomed Nia Jax. Bliss and James antagonized Jax explaining she has a bad attitude which explained why she did not have a partner for their tag match. Jax proved she was wrong though, revealing her partner was NXT call up, Ember Moon. The two would win after Moon hit Bliss with her captivating finisher, The Eclipse. Braun and Nicholas, the 10-year old, relinquished their tag titles. The Bar asked for their titles back. Kurt explained they’ll get a shot at the title against which ever tag team came out of his “Tag Team Eliminator.” The Revival defeated Gallows and Anderson in the first match of said tournament.

Seth Rollins celebrated winning the IC and becoming a Grand Slam Champion. Finn Balor congratulated him, but explained that he wanted a chance to challenge him for his IC title. Rollins accepted, much to Miz’s distain. The former champ raced down to the ring explaining he will get his title back at Backlash, but the two of them can face him and the Mizterouge then, if they were still in the mood to fight. Jeff Hardy made his triumphant return to back up Rollins and Balor. Mandy Rose defeated Sasha Banks with a monstrous knee to the face. Bayley was in Sasha’s corner  and accidentally struck her. Paige, the leader of Absolution, then, announced her retirement from in ring competition. Elias performed a new song for New Orleans. Bobby Lashley made his return to WWE. For the first time in a decade, Lashley stepped into a WWE ring and destroyed Elias. The Authors of Pain defeated Slater and Rhyno after the two made the mistake of calling out any tag team in the back.

Samoa Joe made his return from injury verbally assaulting Roman Reigns, who was out there giving Brock Lesnar the business about his part-time contract. Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt defeated Titus Worldwide in the Tag Team Eliminator. Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens face off after Angle promised a job to the winner of a match between the two on Raw. The match ended in a double count out leaving neither men with a job. The team of Finn Balor, Jeff Hardy, and Seth Rollins defeated Miz and The Mizterouge to close out the Raw after ‘ Mania.

SmackDown Live

Shane opened the show giving fans some updates. Daniel Bryan will be stepping down as the GM in order to become a full time wrestler. In his place, Paige will be the new GM of SmackDown Live. As her first order of business, she issued Daniel Bryan vs AJ Styles as the main event of the night. The Usos defeated The New Day to win a shot to challenge The Bludgeon Brothers for their newly acquired Tag Titles. Naomi defeated Natalya in an electric match of two underrated wrestlers.

Charlotte thanked Asuka for the magic they made at WrestleMania before wondering who she will be making magic with next. This prompted the debut of The Iconic, Peyton Royce and Bilie Kay. The two brutally assaulted the champion, and opened the door for Carmella to cash in her MITB contract to finally win the Women’s Championship. Randy Orton defeated Bobby Roode and Rusev to win a shot to challenge Jinder Mahal for the United States Championship at Backlash. A dream match in Daniel Bryan vs AJ Styles closed the show. Nakamura would eventually crash the party, though, hitting Bryan with a knee before focusing his attack entirely on AJ Styles.

Boy, were the post ‘Mania shows a breath of fresh air.

Raw needed improvement in their tag division, so they add one of the most dominant teams from  NXT in the Authors of Pain. The SmackDown roster needed new faces in the women's division, and, boy, did The Iconics deliver on their first night. Returns like that of Jeff Hardy, Bobby Lashley, and a full time Daniel Bryan add so much to the table.

It has been a long time since I have said this, but SmackDown felt like it was above and beyond what Raw did this week. It was quick, it was surprising, and, frankly, every segment felt like it mattered. Having Bryan as a full-time wrestler will do wonders for the show. Not to mention, turning Nakamura heel was perhaps the best decision to come out of WrestleMania. It has given him the edge he has so desperately needed on the main roster.

Of course, all this considered, things could look drastically different a month from now. Next week, The Super Star Shakeup will take place on both shows. Stephanie and Kurt will do their best to one up SmackDown Live, as Shane and Paige try to do the same. I have been an advocate for another shake up for a while now, I just hope it does not disturb what appears to be a newly acquired balance on SmackDown Live.

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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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