Every-Thing Sports

What to look forward to in 2020

What a year in sports! We had all sorts of cool things happen this year. Astros made it to another World Series. Texans won the AFC South again., The Rockets made the playoffs led by James Harden averaging 36 points a game. UH football got a new (old) head coach, while the basketball program came within two wins of a Final Four appearance. This time of the year, there's always a ton of year end, or in this year's case, decade end lists and articles. I do love a good list because it gives us something to debate over.

Fred Faour gave us his 2019 year in review of Houston's top five athletes a couple weeks ago. While I mostly agree with his list, I'm not going to bore anyone with a breakdown of what I agree or disagree with. Instead, I'm here to look forward. So here are a few predications I have for the upcoming year in Houston sports (presented in no particaular:

UH men's basketball makes the Elite 8...or more

Coach Kelvin Sampson has this program rolling. Led by Kansas transfer, and Woodlands native, Quentin Grimes, the Coogs are poised to improve upon their Sweet Sixteen appearance last season. Defense is always going to be a calling card of any Sampson coached team. One of the main reasons I believe in this team's ability to go further than they did last year is their length. Only three guys on the roster are 6'3 or under. Long arms make it easier to get in passing lanes. They also make rebounding a bit easier. Grimes was a McDonald's All-American and former top 10 recruit in his class. Having elite level talent like that has to make things easier for Sampson. It could also help with recruiting.

The Astros will barely make the playoffs

With the cheating scandal still looming large, there's a ton of uncertainty surrounding the defending American League champs. No one really knows for sure the result of MLB's investigation or what penalties will be enforced. That being said, there are questions heading into next season regarding the roster. Gerritt Cole got $324 million dollars to shave and get a haircut to be a Yankee, so good luck replacing the Cy Young runner up. Not to mention there are three question amrks in the rotation, bullpen still needs to be solidfied, and this team could be counting on everyday players that have largely been question marks (looking at you Kyle Tucker). I think they'll win the AL West because it's not a very good division, but don't expect another run in the playoffs.

Bill O'Brien's seat will get hot

The Texans went 11-5 last year and won the division. They went 10-6 this year and won it again. The difference is that this year's team was more poised to do bigger things than last year's team. O'Brien has seized power on Kirby and is currently in a position where he can almost do whatever he sees fit as far as personnel decisions are concerned. Given his authority over the roster and winning back to back division titles, expectations should grow. When you constantly make a mess and spend more time cleaning it up the way O'Brien has, you have to continue to win and win at a high level. If the Texans show any regression next season, I expect his seat to warm up. I'm not suggesting they'll miss the playoffs. But another dismal performance in the playoffs this year after what happened last year and whatever they do the following year isn't a good look. It'll further the narrative the O'Brien isn't the right coach for this team and a change should come.

Simone Biles will further cement her legacy

If you don't think Simone Biles is one of the greatest athletes of our time, you're a dumbass. Any time they name moves after you because no one else has attempted or pulled them off, it means something. Any time you win as much and at as high a level on a consistent basis the way she has in a subjective sport despite judges sometimes grading you on a curve because your moves have a degree of difficulty others can't match, you're a badass. I expeect her to win at least another five or more gold medals in the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics and garner more attention as one of the greatest athletes of our time.

The Rockets will remain in purgatory

James Harden and Russell Westbrook are dynamic talents. As former MVPs, these guys can still play at a very high level. However, I don't see them challenging for a spot in the NBA Finals this season, or maybe any time in the near future. While the Western Conference is more wide open, they aren't consistent enough to make me believe in them. The Lakers and Clippers have gotten much better. The Nuggets and Mavs are both younger and very talented. The Jazz are another good young team and the Warriors will be back next season armed with a lottery-level talent due to their current record. How the Rockets overcome all this and their own issues is beyind me. They'll make the playoffs and probably win their first round series. They could even find themselves in the Western Conference Finals again. But I highly doubt they go any further.

UH football will get back to their winning ways

Dana Holgorsen is a smart man. There's a reason he always has a job and is always in demand. While his controversial decision to redshirt D'Eriq King and others was met with backlash, I happen to think it was genius. If you're not looking at the rules for loopholes on how to beat the system, you're doing it wrong. Holgorsen will get this team back on track whether King comes back or not. I doubt King leaves, but Clayton Tune showed enough to prove himself worthy. Couple the return of King with a recruiting/transfer class and Holgorsen will have more guys he wants to run his system the way he wants it run. This includes guys that were already here learning his system even better. Expect the Coogs to make a run at 10-win season and King to get some Heisman hype.

Most of these things will end up coming true. Some I hope I'm wrong about. One thing I don't do is shy away from being wrong. Some people wait for you to be wrong so they can tell you how wrong you are, but will fail to acknowledge what you're right about. That's fine. I don't mind at all. I hope some of you will note this article and bring it back up next year some time so we can discuss the accuracy. Things like that create discussions and dialogue which I'm open to, as long as it's respectful. So, until then, Happy New Year!

Texas Div. I Football Rankings: Houston's up, down season continues

UH Dana Holgorsen UH Football/Facebook
Houston Texans Bill O'Brien Houston Texans/Facebook

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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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