While many fans showed their displeasure with Kyle Tucker’s early numbers, the left-hander is on a hot streak.
Framber Valdez stole the show on Wednesday night for the Houston Astros. The left-hander went seven strong innings, after a rocky first inning that led to the only run allowed by the home team and three runners stranded. Valdez fanned 10 batters, while surrending five hits and two walks in the 2-1 victory over the Boston Red Sox.
While the run support wasn’t electric for both teams in this pitcher’s dual, the Astros only had four hits; two coming from Kyle Tucker. As everyone knows, the left-hander came out of his shell in 2020, after struggling to adapt in 2018 and 2019 to major-league pitching. This slow transition to the game was noted again at the start of 2021, but over the past month, Tucker has been the hottest hitter in the lineup.
So, what has changed?
The game of baseball is about adjustments; what can a player do to hit the ball better against a certain pitcher or how can a pitcher fool a certain hitter? This has been a more heavily processed theme with advanced metrics coming into play within the past decade. I have used these type of terms before, and for those that might not understand a lot of it, Baseball Savant breaks down this next level processing of the game.
For those that were coming for Tucker’s head early in the season, it is understandable to be upset with talent not always producing. While having a dynasty brewing the past six years, it makes sense to be frustrated, but the team is changing in play style. Tucker was hitting below the Mendoza Line (below .200) in parts of April, but since then, he’s hitting .256 with an OPS of .810 (above league average).
In the past 30 games, the 24-year-old is slashing .318/.407/.579 with six home runs and 20 RBI. He is the team leader in home runs thus far this season, and has been putting on a clinic in different parts of the lineup. With Michael Brantley still out, the returns of Yordan Alvarez and Yuli Gurriel bumped Tucker back into the sixth spot, where I thought he was best suited to start the season.
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Although with recent success, it makes sense that Tucker is batting lower to diversify the lineup with his left-handed bat. In an advanced look, your best hitter should be hitting second, where I think Tucker is best suited now with Brantley on the IL. There are multiple lineup adjustments worth exploring, like Carlos Correa possibly leading off and Jose Altuve hitting third.
In reality, not much has changed in Tucker’s swing. He started the season as one of the unluckiest hitters in baseball but is now finding the grass. There could have been an adjustment to have less chase in his swing or hit around shifts and into gaps better that we don’t know about, but the left-hander is in the 98th percentile of expected batting average in the league. This helps show that most of the time he makes contact, there is a high chance of it being a hit.
Tucker’s slump is over, and while crushing the ball in the 80+ percentile of hard hit percentage, the left-hander is boosting his numbers. This is too early to call, but if Tucker continues to rake, he could make a run for a reserve spot in the All-Star game in July.
The Astros are currently on a four-game winning streak with the chance of sweeping the Red Sox on Thursday at 1:10 p.m. Jake Odorizzi will get the ball, as the rotation looks to stay hot.