Bad luck doesn’t last forever, right?
Kyle Tucker is having a nightmare season at the plate, which is obvious just by taking a look at his .179/.250/.349 slash line after 31 games for the Astros in 2021. But his case is pretty particular and interesting.
If you go to Baseball-Reference and see his standard batting stats, his .597 OPS will probably make you cry. BUT, and this is a big one, I invite you to go deeper and begin by taking a glimpse at his .177 BABIP. That will tell you something about his season.
But then you’ll likely debate between poor exit velocity, a counterproductive batted ball profile, or bad luck. And from here, we’ll go to Baseball Savant. Come on, type with me www.baseballsavant.com and then “Kyle Tucker” in the bar at the top right. Hit enter and... Voila!
First, Tucker’s exit velocity (91.4 MPH) is notably above average (88.3 MPH). Second, he’s hitting fewer ground balls and line drives than in 2020, plus more fly balls. But there’s nothing to be extremely worried about regarding that.
Then we need to take care of the third point: BAD LUCK.
When I began doing my research about Tucker, I just couldn’t believe that a player whose percentile rankings look this (wait for the image) can have so bad statistics...
Going to the quality of his contact, Tucker’s 9.5% barrel percentage is even higher than last year’s 9.1%. His expected batting average is .279 while his expected slugging percentage is .530. Just way too distant from his actual numbers.
Besides, no player with Tucker’s pedigree can be this bad against fastballs. The young outfielder is hitting just for a .167 batting average off fast pitches, only a year removed from averaging .309 against the same kind of deliveries.
If you’re wondering about his plate discipline, let me tell you his contact percentage is the BEST of his career and it’s even above league average: 79.2%. It’s that not elite, it’s very close to that. For the third year in a row, Tucker’s whiff% has lowered, so he’s swinging-and-missing less:
2019: 30.1 Whiff%
2020: 22.5 Whiff%
2021: 20.8 Whiff%
So what can be wrong with him when he seems to keep improving? It’s just bad luck, I insist!
The biggest proof of what I’m saying is the following videos. I went to MLB.com/video and watched every time Tucker has been put out in 2021. I count 18 times —EIGHTEEN OUTS— where he was a victim of bad luck, according to exit velocity, good grabs by the rival team, and my eye — yes, something had to be subjective.
Do you want more? Wish fulfilled...
Imagine if those 18 outs hadn’t actually been outs and, instead, had fallen for hits. If you add 18 hits to Tucker’s stats with the same number of at-bats he has now (106), his batting average raises to .349. A hypothetical thing that hurts but relieves pain —or fear— at the same time.
For those who already started panicking about Tucker’s bad season, just calm down. He’s talented enough to believe he will end this bad streak anytime soon and help the Astros in a bigger way.
(Editor’s Note: The statistics and metrics reported in this article were collected prior to last night’s Blue Jays-Astros game in which Tucker went 1-4 with a double, an RBI and strikeout. His double had an xBA of .690 and his two outs were a lineout with a .480 xBA and a drag bunt attempt that nearly resulted in a single save for tremendous fielding by Toronto.)