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What you need to know as UIL announces Texas high school football schedules

Photo via: Vype.

University Interscholastic League (UIL) recently announced schedules for the 2020 fall football season in Texas.

"With the understanding that not all schools will be able to start at the same time, this plan allows for schools to make playing decisions at the local level, and UIL will work directly with schools that have scheduling issues not addressed in this plan to allow them flexibility to complete as many contests as possible," according to a UIL press release.

Class 5A and 6A programs will notice the most changes. Practices for 5A and 6A schools will begin September 7, and games will kick off September 14. There won't be any changes for Class 1A, 2A, 3A, and 4A. Practices will start August 3, and games a week later.

"This plan provides a delay for schools in highly populated metro areas, primarily Class 5A-6A, given the challenges with COVID-19 those communities are facing," according to the UIL statement.

UIL will impose a strict coronavirus screening policy once athletic activities resume. Players, coaches, and staff must undergo a self-screening for COVID-19 symptoms before participating in a sport or entering any UIL venue.

Kevin Hall, head coach of the Manvel High School 5A football team, knows that towns across Texas are excited for their local football team to start playing games.

"I can understand why the UIL did what they did. I am just very, very thankful that, as of right now, we are going to play football at all. Let's face it, when you go to towns all over the state of Texas, sports are everyone's common interest." Hall said.

Hall said he is enforcing UIL mandated COVID-19 precautions and will continue to put his players' safety first.

"Our priority is to make sure we are doing our best to stay safe with social distancing and wearing masks. No situation is perfect and we understand that. It is our responsibility as a coaching staff to do what we can do to help eliminate chances of kids getting sick." Hall said.

Hall added that he is aware that a surge in coronavirus among players could put the season at a sudden halt.

"I know things will possibly change through the season, but like I have told our kids through our summer program, I refused to let this virus define our season. It is not going to happen. We are stronger than that, and we are going to take what is thrown at us and come out better on the other end," Hall said.

Andres Gomez, athletic director and head football coach at 6A Northbrook High School commented on what the schedule change will mean for Northbrook's football program.

"The UIL announcement to push the start of the season back a month gives us something to look forward to. While we know that it is far from concrete because of the fluidity of our circumstances, we can at least see some light at the end of the tunnel. This only strengthens our desire to get out and compete," Gomez said.

Tim Teykl, athletic director and head football coach at 6A Alvin High School, said people should not be view UIL's announcement as a delay, but celebrate football's return.

"People are looking right past the fact that the UIL just waved the green flag. The fact that they opened it up and said we are going to slowly return to normalcy by giving back sports and giving us the ability to work with the kids. Big kudos to the UIL," Teykl said.

Teykl credited UIL for recognizing that large 5A and 6A schools need more time to prepare for their season than smaller schools.

"A lot of people are asking why UIL's 1A thru 4A schools will begin their seasons earlier than 5A and 6A. It is really quite easy when people understand it is a numbers game. Eighty-one percent of UIL participation in high school football in Texas comes from 5A and 6A schools. You have to give them consideration on how to manage a population that big," Teykl said.

In the UIL press release, executive director Dr. Charles Breithaupt commented about unpredictable circumstances relating to coronavirus but remained confident in the League's return plan.

"While understanding situations change and there will likely be interruptions that will require flexibility and patience, we are hopeful this plan allows students to participate in the education-based activities they love in a way that prioritizes safety and mitigates risk of COVID-19 spread," said Dr. Breithaupt in UIL's press release.

UIL announced that school systems may conduct corona screenings of their own, via online the internet. Northbrook is part of Spring Branch ISD and the district has issued a Health and Safety Protocol Acknowledgement that families of players must sign.

"Parents must ensure they do not send a student to participate in UIL activities if the student has COVID-19 symptoms or is lab-confirmed with COVID-19 until the conditions for re-entry are met," according to UIL guidelines.

To stay updated on UIL's COVID-19 Risk Mitigation guidelines, click on https://www.uiltexas.org/policy/covid-19/2020-2021-uil-covid-19-risk-mitigation-guidelines

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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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