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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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

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