WWE WRAP-UP

This week in WWE: Shake-ups to the Survivor Series card with surprise title changes

The Phenomenal One captures his second WWE Championship. Photo by WWE.com

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

Raw:

The Miz kicked off Monday Night Raw with a new episode of Miz TV. His frustrations were apparent when he called his opponent at Survivor Series, Baron Corbin, “ The bathroom break of SmackDown.” He invited Kurt Angle to the ring to discuss Kane’s attack on Daniel Bryan last week. Angle insisted that he had nothing to do with the attack. The Miz, then, accused Angle of setting him up for Strowman’s ambush at the end of Raw last week. Again, Angle insisted that he was not behind the attack. Angle explained to The Miz that Strowman will be representing the red team at Survivor Series, and he was only able to persuade him to participate because he promised him a match against Miz. Jason Jordan and Elias' feud peaked this week in a Guitar on a Pole match. Essentially, the only way to win this match is by striking your opponent with the guitar that is elevated over the ring. Elias pulled the guitar down, but Jordan would win the match after striking him in the back with the guitar. Backstage, The Bar asked Kurt Angle for one last chance at the Tag Titles. Angle agreed to their requested, but insisted that this will be their last chance. Asuka defeated another enhancement talent this week with her Asuka Lock finisher. Alicia Fox, captain of the Raw women’s team, announced that Asuka will be the third member of her team at Survivor Series. Titus O’Neil requested a match against Samoa Joe after he choked him out the week before. Unfortunately for him, the match never got started as Joe would, again, ambush him. Joe grabbed a microphone and asked for real competition to face off against him.

A loud ovation welcomed Joe’s challenger, Finn Balor. The history between these two allowed for an entertaining back and forth. The match ended in a double count out after the two fought outside the ring. The result frustrated both men, and they began to brawl. It took multiple referees and “security guards” to separate them. Kurt Angle, then, announced to both men that they will be joining him as representatives of Raw at Survivor Series. Backstage, Kurt Angle told Jason Jordan that he will be the final member of the Raw men’s team. Sasha Banks and Bayley defeated Alicia Fox and Nia Jax when Banks submitted Fox. After the match, Fox asked Banks to join the Raw team.

The Miz’s match against Braun Strowman started the last hour of the show. Early on, Miz did all he could to avoid Strowman, but Strowman would eventually catch up with him and began tossing him around. Kane came down to the ring and struck Strowman, causing a disqualification. The Miz and The Mizterauge attempted to attack Strowman from behind, but The Monster Among Men ended up laying out Miz. Enzo Amore explained to the audience why he is the most valuable champion in the WWE. Kalisto came down to the ring after Amore took shots at his expense in his promo. Instead of attacking him, he sat down, and WWE UK Champion, Pete Dunne, made his way to the ring for a surprise match against Amore. Despite Amore’s attempt to steal the match, all it took was one of Dunne’s Bitter End finishers to put the match away. The Bar came to the ring for their title match against Ambrose and Rollins. They took off their jackets to reveal they were wearing Liverpool jerseys, upsetting the crowd in Manchester. The Shield members dominated the match early on, but The Bar isolated Rollins after taking out Ambrose. To everyone’s surprise, The New Day’s music hit and caused the entire Raw roster to go into a frenzy in fear of another SmackDown Live invasion. The chaos allowed The New Day to get a rise out of the Raw roster and allowed Sheamus to pin Rollins. The Bar ended Raw as the new Tag Team Champions.

Highlight of the night:

Pete Dunne’s appearance on Raw was the highlight of the night. It was perfect, from Dunne’s appearance in his home country of England, to him whipping the floor with Amore. The UK tournament this past January was phenomenal. Let’s hope WWE uses the UK talent more often.

 

SmackDown Live

Just like Raw, SmackDown was live from Manchester, England. Shane McMahon looked ahead to Survivor Series, and The New Day recounted how they bamboozled Raw the night before. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn shamed New Day for their actions and called McMahon a hypocrite for celebrating them. McMahon, then, issued the first match of the night, Sami Zayn vs Kofi Kingston. The two athletic wrestlers had a great back and forth, but Kingston’s Cross Body surprised Zayn and allowed him to pick up the win. Owens attempted to attack Kingston after his win, but Big E and Xavier Woods jumped in to save their partner. Backstage, Jinder Mahal addressed AJ Styles, the man who he will be defending his WWE Championship in the main event. Aiden English serenaded Rusev before his match against Randy Orton. Rusev surprised Orton with a big kick to start the match, but one RKO out of nowhere was enough for The Viper to win. James Ellsworth confronted his opponent of the night, Becky Lynch. Yes, you read that right.

Their “War of the Sexes” match started the second hour. Ellsworth attempted to apologize to Lynch. Instead of accepting his apology, Lynch made him submit to her Disarmer. Carmella jumped into the ring after the match. It looked like she was about to brawl with Lynch, instead, she kicked Ellsworth in the face. Shane McMahon told Natalya backstage that she will be defending her Women’s Championship against Charlotte Flair next week. The Usos defended their Tag Team Championships against Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin. The challengers would win via count out when Jimmy Uso could not get back into the ring because of what appeared to be a knee injury. AJ Styles challenged Jinder Mahal for the WWE Championship. Styles used his speed to gain an advantage over the champion. He, then, had to take out the Singh Brothers after they pulled Mahal out of the ring. Finally, Styles saw an opening and hit Mahal with a Phenomenal Forearm to win The WWE Championship for the second time.

Highlight of the night:

The Phenomenal One does phenomenal things. Styles is without a doubt one of the best wrestlers in the company. Seeing him win the WWE title, on an episode of SmackDown no less, was an awesome moment.

How do they compare

This week was a great one. The title change on Raw was a surprise, and the possibility of it setting up The New Day vs The Shield has me on the edge. SmackDown took that ball and ran with it with a surprise title change of their own. It set up a match I never thought I would see, Brock Lesnar vs AJ Styles. The best thing about these brands interacting is that they lift each other up; thus, giving fans a great build with consistently good shows. Survivor Series is a week from Sunday, and, boy, does this Pay Per View feel like a big deal.

 

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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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