A look back

What this World Series means to someone who has been covering Houston sports all his life

These are moments we should not forget. Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

I wrote this the night the Astros won the World Series. I thought it would be worth bringing back for Father's Day.

It was about an hour after Game 7 that it hit me. The Houston Astros are World Series champions. And for the first time in a long time, I got emotional. I felt incredible joy for the players, team management, and most of all the city of Houston.

My city. 

I hoped the people celebrating realized how truly memorable this moment will be going forward. How rare it is. How special it is.

How sports gives us memories like this that we should never forget.

I come at this from a different perspective. I am an old man, three years younger than the Astros. I have been covering sports in this city in one form or another since I was 16. But my ties go even farther back than that.

Both my parents were in sports journalism. I grew up around it. I thought every little kid got to go to Don Wilson pitching camps. Dan Pastorini quarterback camps. I thought they all got to meet Gordie Howe and Guy V. Lewis. At the time, I did not appreciate any of it.

I lived through all the moments Barry Laminack wrote about. And I see what this means to the city, as the incomparable Ken Hoffman wrote.

But sometime during the evening, after my work posting stories to this site was done, sipping on whiskey, I realized what it meant to me.

So about that different perspective...I am not a fan. I can’t be. I have to be detached. I could not really enjoy the games as they were happening. My mindset was simple: What do we need to do for the site? What will we talk about on The Blitz? I look at teams with a detached eye, because that is how I was brought up.

Fans can truly enjoy the moment, but can’t really be honest. They can’t see things from a neutral perspective. I have always had to do that, whether it was my time at the Chronicle or now. It does not always lead to popular takes. But it is how I have to be to do my job.

But when the job was done, I could sit back and appreciate what we just saw.

What sports is really about is escape. It is the greatest and best form of reality TV. It takes our mind off our everyday troubles. It gives us amazing memories.

And that’s what hit me. It made me think of my dad, Fred B. Faour, one of the smartest, funniest people who ever lived. A man who endured terrible hardships growing up. He was abandoned by his mother and grew up in an orphanage. He was kicked out of our great grandparent’s house because my mom had married an "N word." He was Arabic and looked different from everybody else. He was discriminated against. He was not promoted because he was not a white man. 

And he never complained. He was irreverent. He buried himself in sports as an escape. He covered sports and coached kids and gave them hope. He created memories.

As a journalist, he never acted like a fan, because he couldn’t. But he lived and died with the teams. My worst sports memory was UH’s loss to N.C. State. I was devastated. I thought none of my teams would ever win anything after that. I was an 18-year-old kid who watched people he knew -- I went to high school with Alvin Franklin -- lose a game they were supposed to win.

I could tell my dad was hurting, too. But he made jokes. And I felt better. That’s what he did. When my grandfather died, my dad cheered us up by making jokes. When I went through my first divorce, he hit me with one inappropriate joke after another. And it made me feel better.

Year after year, as the heartbreaking losses mounted, he would make me laugh. When we lost him in 1997, I tried to make people think of the good things, make them laugh. And that’s been my policy ever since.

But early Thursday morning, when I no longer had to work,  I understood what this World Series meant. Memories we will have forever. My dad made me realize that sports is not just the “toy department,” as we were often called in my newspaper days. It is how we bond. How we come together. How we find joy and sorrow together. It is about emotion. Watching everyone celebrate, whether it was the players in LA or the people in Midtown or in Minute Maid: We came together. We were all on the same side. We rejoiced.

Not a day goes by where I do not think of my dad. And when I finally had a chance to be a fan, all I could think of was how I wish he had lived to see it. How I wish we could have talked on the phone for hours about every detail of the game. How we could make Dodger jokes. I could almost hear him say something inappropriate like “how many (lady parts) do you think Springer is test driving tonight?”

And that is what sports is to me. Talking about it with people we love. Sharing the moments, good and bad. And there have been a lot more bad than good in this city.

The older you get, the less emotional you get. But this has been a tough stretch. Harvey was devastating. Seeing the people piling into the George R. Brown was heartbreaking. Talking to friends who lost their dream houses and are still displaced was more than depressing. The shootings in Vegas also hit close to home. I spend a lot of time there and was just at that venue, and two of my favorite people were in the middle of it. Our world is a mess right now. Bad news dominates everything.

But moments like this make it all melt away, like light snow on a fall day, even if it is fleeting. We can escape. We can feel.

And it brings back so many memories. Watching Jose Cruz. Enos Cabell. Earl Campbell. Moses Malone. Living my entire life as part of the sports landscape of this wonderful city, from the time my parents took me to the first game in the Astrodome in a stroller, to the Rockets titles, to me creating the tombstone, to UH winning the Peach Bowl, and finally to this.

Memories.

So many times I came close to leaving Houston. Even in the last five years, I had opportunities in Denver, Los Angeles and Toronto. But this is my home. This sports scene is my life. All my memories are here.

This moment is why I stayed. This memory we will have together forever.

The Astros are World Series champs. And for once, dad, we don’t have to make jokes to cheer each other up. The Astros actually won.

I wish you were here to see it.

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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.

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