WWE Wrap-Up

This week in WWE: The teams for Survivor Series are forming

Braun Strowman made a monstrous return to Raw. Photo by WWE.com

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

Raw

Kurt Angle addressed the entire Raw roster to open the show this week. He would apologize to his wrestlers for letting his friendship with Shane McMahon blind him, allowing McMahon and SmackDown Live to invade the show. Stephanie McMahon made her first appearance on Raw since WrestleMania. She belittled Angle explaining that allowing the attack ruined the 25 year reputation of Monday Night Raw. As a result, he will be forced to compete at Survivor Series as the team captain of the men’s team. If they do not win, she will be finding a new general manager for Raw. Bayley prepared in the ring to take on Alecia Fox in the first match of the night, or so she thought. Fox would tell Bayley that, as captain of Raw’s women’s team, she does not have time to fight her but Nia Jax does. Initially, the sudden change proved to not fret an aggressive Bayley, but Jax’s strength would prove to be too much as she would pin Bayley after a leg drop. Fox would, then, announce Nia Jax as her first pick to Raw’s women’s team. Samoa Joe would officially make his return to Raw to a loud ovation from the crowd. Despite this, Joe would explain to the crowd that he did not miss a single fan in his absence. Apollo Crews challenged Joe hoping to prove himself as a contender for Raw’s men's team. His speed would initially give him the upper hand, but Joe would end up winning the match with his Coquina Clutch. Titus O’Neil jumped into the ring to attempt to save his client but would also end up in a Coquina Clutch.

The Miz defended his Intercontinental Championship against Matt Hardy. Hardy dominated the majority of the match. The Miz would roll out of the ring after getting hit with Hardy’s Twist of Fate. As Hardy attempted to bring him back in, he would get thrown into the ropes, and Miz would finish him off with a Skull Crushing Finale. Asuka took on a “local talent” named Stacy Cullen. Asuka would dominate every second of the match, and would submit her opponent with her Asuka Lock. SmackDown Live’s Daniel Bryan would meet with Kurt Angle backstage. Bryan attempted to apologize to Angle for SmackDown’s attack, but Angle was not going to hear it. He would send Bryan away with a message for Shane McMahon. Bryan would remain in Angle’s office only to get attacked by Kane. Finn Balor took on Cesaro in what was, without a doubt, the match of the night. Every time Balor took the upper hand, Sheamus, Cesaro’s partner, would distract him and allow him to capitalize. Balor would have enough and hit Sheamus with a kick, then, after diving into them, would hit Cesaro with a stomp to the back of the neck to win. Kane cut Balor’s celebration short as he Tombstoned him on the stage.

Seth Rollins challenged Kane to start the third hour of Raw. Rollins would use his speed to gain momentum in the match. Cesaro and Sheamus returned to the ring to attack Ambrose, who was outside supporting his partner. This distraction would cost Rollins the match as Kane would win with a Choke Slam. After the match, Kane and The Bar ambushed The Shield members, and Kane would give both Ambrose and Rollins a Tombstone. With Halloween on Tuesday, Gallows and Anderson took on Heath Slater and Rhyno in a “Trick or Street Fight.” Surrounded by props, this match was not much more than comedic relief. Slater bobbed for apples, Gallows would get a pie to the face, and Anderson would through a table allowing Rhyno to pin him for the win. Jason Jordan got his revenge over Elias after last week’s attack by breaking his guitar. Kalisto made quick work of Drew Gulak defeating him almost immediately with the Salida del Sol. Enzo Amore would, then, attack Kalisto from behind.  Alexa Bliss defended her Woman’s Championship in the main event against Mickie James. James would try every pin combination imaginable but it would prove to not be enough as Bliss won with one stiff strike to the face. The Miz and his Mizterouge attempted to leave the arena after finding a bag of trash in his locker room. He knew Strowman would be back for him, and he was right. Strowman caught them as they were attempting to escape and chased them down to the ring. Raw ended with Strowman decimating Curtis Axel with five Running Power Slams, including one through the table.

Highlight of the night

Is there any doubt? Braun Strowman is freaking back! Having him off last week made perfect sense, and, man, did the fans miss him. After every Running Power Slam, the fans would yell “one more time,” and Strowman would deliver. When the fans starting chanting “table,” Strowman carried Axel all the way up the stage and put him through the table. Your wish is Braun Strowman’s command.

SmackDown Live

Shane McMahon finally explained why the blue team invaded Raw last week. “Raw sees us as the inferior brand,” explained McMahon. He shared how upset he was about Kane attacking Daniel Bryan, and revealed to the crowd that he will be the captain of the SmackDown Live men’s team. The Two out of Three Falls match between Bobby Roode and Dolph Ziggler opened the show. Roode would dominate the first fall, but one Super Kick was enough for Ziggler to steal it. Roode rolled up Ziggler after slamming him into the turnbuckle to win the second fall. The third fall was an exciting one, and it would end with Roode pinning Ziggler with a Glorious DDT. Bobby Roode will be joining Randy Orton and Shane McMahon on team SmackDown.  Backstage, Rusev ended The New Day’s Halloween celebration by crushing their candy, and explaining that the only real holiday is Rusev Day. Becky Lynch lit a fire under the women’s division explaining to them they need to band together to defeat Raw. Natalya then antagonized Charlotte, “The weakest link," and explained that if the team loses it would be because of her. Baron Corbin took on Sin Cara for the third week in a row. The match would not get very far before the two brawled outside of the ring. It would end in a double count out, as Baron Corbin ran away from Sin Cara.

AJ Styles defeated Samir Singh almost immediately after hitting him with a Styles Clash. Jinder Mahal wasted no time and attacked Styles as soon as the match ended. The New Day got a little bit of payback on Rusev in the form of a match between Big E and Rusev. Unfortunately for them, the result would not be a good one as Rusev would win with a kick to Big E, who was distracted by Aiden English. Breezango were up to no good again. This week, their fashion files segment was a parody of Stranger Things. The main event saw Shinsuke Nakamura take on Kevin Owens. The winner of the match would become the fourth representative of team SmackDown at Survivor Series. Sami Zayn raced down to the ring to help his best friend, Kevin Owens. When it looked like they would get the best of Nakamura, Randy Orton would sneak up behind Zayn, and provide enough of a distraction for Nakamura to capitalize and win the match. Nakamura will represent team SmackDown Live alone with Bobby Roode, Randy Orton, and Shane McMahon.

How do they compare?

As I speculated last week, these next few weeks will be very good. As one of the main Pay Per Views, Survivor Series will get a lot of time and effort. Thus, both shows really delivered this week. The shows could get a little stagnant once they finish building all of the teams out, but I suspect that will not happen as we are bound to see another invasion when Raw retaliates.   

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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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