HARRIS COUNTY - HSA INSIDER

A weekly look at all things Houston sports from the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority: The Houston sports Hall of Fame

A rendering of the Houston Sports Hall of Fame at Green Street downtown. Courtesy Harris County-Houston Sports Authority

The Harris County – Houston Sports Authority Insider will take you inside Houston Sports each Friday because #WeAreHoustonSports!

Back in February, it was the exclamation point to a star-studded night celebrating the best athletes and moments in Houston sports.

With legendary 34s Nolan Ryan, Earl Campbell and Hakeem Olajuwon still taking bows as the event’s headline honorees, emcee Bill Worrell dropped the news about the creation of the Houston Sports Hall of Fame – an announcement a very few people in room – in fact in the entire city – knew was coming.

Fast forward three months to today when the Harris County – Houston Sports Authority, in partnership with Midway and Lionstone, is preparing to break ground on Phase One of the Hall on GreenStreet Promenade.

The event is set for June 4 at 3 p.m. and the actual groundbreaking will be open to the public. Prior to that, the first class of no-last-names-needed inductees – Nolan, Earl and Hakeem – will be presented with their Hall of Fame rings in a private ceremony.

Those rings – the latest bling for these multiple Hall of Famers – all have the No. 34 on them and were designed by Houston’s Fred Cuellar of Diamond Cutters International. Each one is unique to the player, team and sport.

Earl’s with be trimmed with Columbia blue stones for the Houston Oilers’ team colors, while Hakeem’s will be Houston Rockets red and Nolan’s will have Houston Astros orange. Nolan’s and Earl’s will have some gold trim, while Hakeem’s will have platinum. His Muslim faith does not allow him to wear gold.

In case you’re wondering, Hakeem’s long slim fingers mean he has the smallest ring at size 11. Nolan wears a 14 and Earl is a size 20.

Mayor Sylvester Turner and other city officials will be on hand to honor the inaugural inductees and help break ground on the Walk of Fame. Each inductee will have his own plaque along the Walk, which runs from the House of Blues through the GreenStreet Promenade.

"It's incredible what this will mean to all Houstonians,’’ said Harris County-Houston Sports Authority CEO Janis Burke. “This will outlive us all as a way to honor some of the greatest athletes ever to play their respective sports. And the proximity to Minute Maid Park, Toyota Center and the George R. Brown Convention Center will allow visitors from all over the world to honor them as well.''

The Walk is simply the first phase of the new Hall of Fame. Additional phases will have interactive components as well as LED displays.

The final phase will be the an actual interior space for the Hall of Fame and the Hall’s first exhibit will be the 8-foot paintings by Houston’s Opie Otterstad of each member of the inaugural class which were unveiled at the Houston Sports Awards.

 

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

Here's what the data tells us about Bregman. Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

Alex Bregman had a rough season in 2020 by his standards. He slashed .242/.350/.451 in 42 regular season games. His regular season included a trip to the 10-day IL for a hamstring strain he suffered in mid-August. His surface-level struggles continued in the postseason, where he slashed .220/.316/.300 in 13 games. However, that postseason sample size does include a tough luck game against the Tampa Bay Rays where he went 0-for-5 with five hard hit balls.

All-in-all, 2020 felt like a lost season for Bregman. He never really got going. He got off to a slow start, but he's always been a slow starter. Once he started to pick it up, he strained his hamstring, and he played poorly after returning from the hamstring strain. Then, he started to turn his batted ball quality around in the playoffs, but he hit into a lot of tough luck outs.

Hard Hit % - 33.6%

Barrel % - 3.9%

K% - 14.4%

BB% - 13.3%

Chase % - 18.1%

Bregman comes from the Michael Brantley school of hitters. He has elite plate discipline and elite bat-to-ball skills. This makes Bregman a fairly consistent hitter. That may sound odd considering his 2020 "struggles" but even an extended period of poor performance for him resulted in a .801 OPS and a 122 wRC+. If his valleys are still 22% better than the league average hitter, then that's a pretty reliable producer.

There aren't any alarming trends in Bregman's statistics. Yes, his K% was slightly up, his BB% is slightly down, but it isn't a massive difference in either category. His Chase % was up, but again, 18.1% is elite discipline. The biggest drop was in his Hard Hit%, where he fell from 38% to 33.6%. Even so, his average exit velocity only dropped .4 MPH, so there's not really a catastrophic trend here.

His .254 BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) was low, but he's never put up really high BABIP numbers. In fact, his BABIP has gotten worse every year of his career, from .317 to .311 to .289 to .281 to .254. While his BABIP will likely spike back up next year, it isn't enough to be the difference between the 2019 and 2020 versions of himself. His xBA and xSLG weren't out of whack either. His .256 xBA isn't much better than his .240 AVG, and his .400 xSLG is actually worse than his .451 SLG.

Bregman is as forthcoming with his hitting mechanics, approach, and mental cues as any big leaguer out there. Here is what he had to say about his swing this year. This was a Zoom press conference with the media following the Astros game on September 25th against the Rangers.

Bregman says he wants to hit balls in the air to the pull side and on a line to the opposite field, but in reality, he was hitting flares to the opposite field and hitting them on the ground to the pull side.

The data mostly backs up that claim. In 2019, on balls hit to the pull side, Bregman had an average exit velocity of 90.7 MPH at an average launch angle of 16°, a 40% Hard Hit %, and a 16% HR%. Since Bregman has elite bat-to-ball skills, most of those metrics didn't change. In 2020, his average exit velocity was 90.6, essentially the same as 2019. His Hard Hit % was 42%, a touch better than in 2019. However, his average launch angle dipped from 16° to 11°, which contributed to his HR% dropping all the way to 9%. Bregman hit 47% of his pull side swings on the ground. In 2019, that number was 40%. He absolutely had less production to the pull side in 2020.

The data gets a little hazier going the opposite way when comparing 2019 to 2020, as Bregman actually performed slightly better to the opposite field in 2020 than 2019, but he also only had 20 batted balls to the opposite field all season. Considering the small sample size, it isn't worth diving too deep into the data.

He's right that most of the balls he hit that way were flares. He had an average exit velocity of 83.4 MPH with an average launch angle of 32°, but that's about the same as what he did in 2019. A lot of the statistical drop off comes from balls that were backspun rockets to the pull side in 2019 becoming top spinners or roll overs in 2020.

Bregman also performed horribly against breaking balls in 2020. He batted .150 with a .250 SLG against them in 2020. He had an 84 MPH Average Exit Velocity against them and whiffed 26.5% of the time against them.

It was a far cry from 2019, when he hit .265 with a .588 SLG, 87 MPH average exit velo, and whiffed 18% of the time.

Those numbers lend credence to his statement on his mechanics. It's tough for a hitter to have adjustability against breaking balls if he's blowing out his front side and pulling off of the baseball.

Bregman will spend the offseason working on these mechanical fixes and getting back to the hitter he used to be. If he's consistently hitting the ball in the air to the pull side next year, and he's performing better against breaking balls, then he should be right back in the mix for AL MVP.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome