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