FALCON POINTS

Why Trent Williams to the Texans rumors make no sense

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It seemed like an innocent enough story that broke late last week. "Redskins trade rumors: Trent Williams move interests Cardinals, Texans."

Williams is a left tackle, and a damned good one when healthy. He has not been that for several years, but players of his ilk are hard to come by. Still, the Texans being interested does not make a lot of sense. They already have a Pro Bowl left tackle who they gave up two No. 1s and a No. 2 for in Laremy Tunsil, and a promising young right tackle that they drafted in the first round last season in Titus Howard.

Why the rumors?

For the first time in years, the Texans will have some stability on the offensive line, with both tackles, second-year guard Max Scharping and veteran center Nick Martin locked into starting roles. Zach Fulton, the other guard, is also under contract for another season. The story above seems to imply the Texans would want to keep Williams and Tunsil. In that scenario, Howard would presumably move inside to guard.

Why that seems silly

However, Howard was playing his best at tackle, so moving him does not seem to be a positive. In addition, Williams will have to be paid top tackle money, and Tunsil is already in line for that. Plus the Texans have little to offer in the way of trade. So Williams being on their radar in that scenario does not really add up. Investing $20 mil per year apiece in two tackles when you already are set there and have other needs? Not to mention giving up assets to get the second one?

Unless...

The other scenario is the Texans have decided they aren't going to pay Tunsil, which would be a huge mistake considering the investment they made to get him. He is also under contract for this season and can be franchised next year, so even if they can't reach a longterm deal, they would have him for two more seasons. But if they are choosing to move on from him and that would somehow be part of the deal for Williams...well, that is senseless too.

Williams is 31 years old, has not played as many as 12 games since 2016 and did not play at all last year. He will want a contract in the $20 million per year range, which is what it will cost to keep Tunsil, who is only 25 and has missed just six games in four years, just made his first Pro Bowl and has a year in the system under his belt. Not to mention the draft capital you invested to get him. Punting on him now for Williams would be just plain dumb.

Surely it is just a rumor...

And while the organization's direction under Dictator Bill O'Brien remains unclear, this is not something that seems feasible. So it has to be just a rumor, right? The Texans should be focused on getting Tunsil locked up long term, and filling some holes on defense in free agency. Another big OL contract - or replacing a younger player with a similar deal to what he is looking for - is beyond baffling. It would be by far the worst move of the O'Brien GM era and could set the franchise back years.

And let's be fair; as GM so far, O'Brien has not been bad. The Tunsil move looks good assuming they get him signed. The trade for Carlos Hyde was a win. Adding Gareon Conley for a third was a solid move. Trading away Jadeveon Clowney for pennies on the dollar was his one move you could look at say it was a bad decision.

This one would be significantly worse.

So far, in four big moves, O'Brien is 3-1. So the hope is this is all just speculation and the Texans have no real interest in Williams.

The top priorities should be a No. 1 cornerback, finding another running back to replace Hyde and trying to add to the pass rush. The Texans invested heavily in the offensive line last season, and that group looks promising. Why mess with it now?

Texans fans can only hope it is just a false rumor, one that has no basis in fact, because either Williams scenario would be a mistake, one the Texans can't afford and don't need to make.

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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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