Gurriel Swing Study

Will Yuli Gurriel turn it around? A detailed breakdown of his linear swing

Yuli Gurriel is a polarizing figure. Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Opinions on Yuli Gurriel are all over the place.  Depending on who you ask they could tell you they love him and they could tell you they hate him.  One thing that I know for sure about Gurriel is he has a very unique swing, especially during the era of launch angle.

In this piece I will break down Gurriel’s swing, similar to how I broke down Kyle Tucker’s swing last month.  The two are great parallels, as Gurriel has a linear swing, especially compared to that of Tucker’s.

What is a linear hitter? I’ll get into that with the swing break down, but I can give you stereotypes of the linear hitter.  Linear hitters typically don’t hit for very much power (like Yuli) and they work gap-to-gap and rack up a lot of singles and doubles.  Linear hitters typically hit for high averages and are hitters with exceptional hand eye coordination that have great feel for the barrel.  On the Astros, Gurriel and Tony Kemp are linear, while pretty much everyone else is either rotational or a hybrid of the two.

Here’s Gurriel in a game against the Yankees from July 2017.  He has an open stance and a high hand set. His weight is firmly on his backside, which is a commonality amongst linear hitters.  Rotational hitters will mostly have their weight distributed evenly in their stance and will hinge back during the swing, rotating around the back leg and shifting their weight to their backside.  Linear hitters will start with their weight on the backside and will shift their weight forward onto their front side during the swing.


Here is Gurriel at foot plant.  The blue line across his shoulders is to show the downhill plane.  Linear hitters will always have this downhill plane at foot plant. Linear hitters believe in the “swing down” swing thought, which leads to a short swing.  The line at the hips shows the upward plane. This is also normal, and displays the rubber band effect you see in almost every good hitter.

The orange line up against his front hip is for comparison for the next couple of frames.  A rotational hitter at this point would begin to hinge back, and his front hip would never cross the orange line.  However, since Gurriel is linear, his front side will continue to ride forward past the orange line.

Here’s Gurriel at the next frame.  As you can see that front shoulder has continued to move forward past that orange line.  His front leg is bent, showing the weight transfer from back side to front side.


Finally, we have a shot of Gurriel at contact point.  We have another couple of frames forward, and you can see how Gurriel’s body has continued to ride forward towards the pitcher.  His front leg is locked out, which you will see in every hitter at contact, however if you look at his back foot, you will see it is actually off the ground.  Gurriel’s weight is on his front side, posted up against his front leg.

Gurriel lines this pitch directly to the second baseman for a lineout.  While the result isn’t what he wanted, this is the type of out you’ll see from him when he’s going good.  Linear hitters generally both try and are good at backspinning baseballs back up the middle and in the gaps.  When he’s going well Gurriel’s bat stays through the zone for a long time. This allows him lots of room for error, and it’s why a lot of his homers come on offspeed pitches that he’s fooled on but stays through the zone and hooks it over the fence on the pull side.

When he’s going poorly, as he’s been since the All-Star break, his bat doesn’t stay through the zone nearly as long, and you’ll see him rollover to the pullside on lots of pitches and ground into a lot of double plays.  

Gurriel has started hitting some backspin liners in between the gaps recently, so hopefully he’s busting out of his slump, and if he begins to work back up the middle more consistently, he’ll certainly break out of it.  I wouldn’t be surprised if because of the injuries to Springer, Correa, and Altuve that he’s tried to make up for it and hit for more power, but his swing just doesn’t lend itself to that mindset. Because of his swing, he’ll never be the 20-30 homer guy that most first baseman are, but he’ll also usually be a safe bet to hit .300.

 

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Houston goes up 1-0 in the series

Altuve, Correa help lift Astros to ALCS Game 1 win over Red Sox

Carlos Correa's go-ahead homer in the seventh inning of ALCS Game 1 helped lift the Astros to a 1-0 series lead. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Despite one rough loss to the White Sox in the ALDS, the Astros looked like the dominant team they are capable of being, taking that series 3-1 to advance and taking ownership of home-field advantage in the ALCS against the Red Sox, who upset the Rays. In Game 1, despite trailing for the middle portions of the game, Houston would get more highlight moments from the faces of the franchise to start the series with a win.

Final Score: Astros 5, Red Sox 4

ALCS Series (Best of Seven): Houston leads 1-0

Winning Pitcher: Ryne Stanek

Losing Pitcher: Hansel Robles

Houston strikes first, but Boston sends Valdez to an early exit

Both starting pitchers worked in and out of trouble in the early goings of ALCS Game 1, starting with Framber Valdez in the top of the first. After erasing a leadoff single by inducing a double play, he went on to load the bases on a single and two walks but would strand all three runners to keep Boston off the board. The Astros jumped in front in the bottom half, with Jose Altuve working a leadoff walk, moving to second on a one-out single by Alex Bregman, advancing to third on a wild pitch, then ultimately scoring on a sac fly by Yordan Alvarez to put Houston ahead 1-0 after one frame.

They had a chance to extend their lead in the bottom of the second, taking advantage of a shaky inning by Chris Sale, who loaded the bases with one out as Houston would get two singles and a hit-by-pitch. That flipped the order over to the top, but a great diving catch by former Astro Kiké Hernández would end the inning. Hernández led off the top of the third against Valdez, and he would tie things up with a solo homer.

Things went downhill from there for Valdez and the Astros, as a one-out walk followed by a single gave the Red Sox the go-ahead run in scoring position. On a groundball that likely should have been a double play to end the inning, it would get through Altuve's legs, scoring a run and keeping the inning alive for Boston. They took advantage, getting an RBI double to extend their new lead to 3-1. Valdez would get one more out before Dusty Baker would give him the early hook, bringing in Yimi Garcia, who finished the frame.

A battle of the bullpens, Altuve ties it up

Like Valdez, Sale would also not make it through three innings, getting two outs while putting two on base before Boston would start their bullpen's night as well. Both sets of relievers settled the game down, with the Red Sox stranding two of Houston's runners in the third as well as the fifth, maintaining their two-run lead. After Garcia finished the third, Cristian Javier entered to eat up a couple of innings, and he would do just that by getting through two frames with just one hit, four strikeouts, and no runs.

Next, Phil Maton took over in the top of the sixth and erased a leadoff walk to keep things in striking distance for the home team. In the bottom of the sixth, Houston put another runner on base, getting a one-out single by Chas McCormick. Two batters later, with two outs, Jose Altuve provided yet another career postseason highlight, tying the game 3-3 with a two-run home to re-energize the Minute Maid Park crowd.

Astros take ALCS Game 1

Now a brand new ballgame in the top of the seventh, Brooks Raley came in to face three batters, getting two strikeouts while allowing a single before Dusty Baker would move on to Ryne Stanek, who would get the third out. With two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Carlos Correa continued his march to a monster off-season contract, putting Houston back on top with a solo homer, making it 4-3.

Houston kept the script after Stanek with the new lead in hand, going to Kendall Graveman as the setup man in the top of the eighth. Despite a two-out single, he would get out of the inning with the lead intact, putting Houston three outs away from the victory. After a walk, single, and hit by pitch to start the bottom of the eighth with the bases loaded, Altuve would drive in his third run of the game, getting a sac fly to extend the lead to two runs at 5-3.

That insurance run proved pivotal, as closer Ryan Pressly was met with a leadoff solo home run by Hernandez, his second of the night for Boston, to make it 5-4. Pressly refocused and was able to get the next three batters in order, though, wrapping up the win to start Houston off with a 1-0 series lead and putting them three wins away from advancing to the World Series.

Up Next: The two teams will have a moderately quick turnaround, with ALCS Game 2 scheduled to start at 3:20 PM Central on Saturday ahead of NLCS Game 1 between the Dodgers and Braves getting the night slot. The pitching matchup is expected to be Nathan Eovaldi for Boston, who is 1-0 with a 2.61 ERA in his two starts this postseason, going opposite Luis Garcia, who had a rough outing in the ALDS for Houston, giving up five runs without completing three innings in Chicago.

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