Once doubted, Kyle Tucker is putting up numbers with more to come

They say the first sign of getting better is admitting you have a problem. I’m here to admit that in 2018, I thought Kyle Tucker was trending toward being a bust, which in retrospect was incredibly unfair to a 21-year-old.

It really didn’t matter what Tucker did in his few chances in 2019 and the pandemic shortened 2020, even as he showed improvement, because in my mind, he was never going to live up to the hype of the 5th overall selection of the 2015 draft and the expectations set for him by fans, myself included.

I know not every Houston Astros‘ fan reading this is big in Statcast and advanced metrics and sometimes I understand why. There are times a player does things that can’t be quantified, categorized or put in a calculation. However, when you look at Tucker’s 2021 numbers, the old school basic kind, they don’t necessarily pop out at you as fantastic: .277 average, 16 home runs and 53 RBI in 84 games played.

Good, but not MVP worthy. But Tucker’s is a case where I’d advise you to peek at his advanced stats and marvel at all the beautiful red (which translates to “Great” on baseballsavant.com) numbers.

The numbers below correspond to the percentile Kyle Tucker’s ranked in each category, and it is better than most once thought:

The only two categories that are lacking are BB% (37) and Sprint Speed (60). The even better news is instead of regressing to the mean, the advanced stats indicate Tucker still has plenty of room to improve his numbers.

His xBA on fastballs, which he sees almost 55% of the time, is 25 points higher than his current average on the pitch. Similarly, on breaking pitches (27.5%) his xBA is 70 points higher than his actual average.

Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out how solid he’s played right field, too, as evidenced by the last number in the list above, Outs Above Average (OAA), where Tucker ranks in the top 9% of the league and 15th in MLB with 4. Sometimes the standard baseball statistics don’t tell the story of a player’s season and a generalized “he’s hitting in bad luck” statement can be easily disregarded as anecdotal or selective memory.

Other times using advanced metrics, your eyeballs and common sense an argument could easily be made that Tucker’s having a great season while hitting in some bad luck and there’s real potential for even a better final 66 games.

Given Tucker’s performance through the first 96 games of this season, I’m more than happy to tell my 2018 self and everyone reading “I was wrong.”