I’m going to be blunt and use some language I don’t usually use. Yuli Gurriel has taken a lot of shit here at The Crawfish Boxes. Too much. We’ve become kind of spoiled here in Houston by the prolonged excellence of our great team, and it seems we are a little impatient at times when a player has the inevitable slump.
I’m as much to blame as anyone. On June 18th I published an article entitled: Who’s on First...Will the Astros upgrade their weakest position? It even included the famous Abbott and Costello comedy routine. One commenter, typical of what many have been saying all year, suggested: “ Move Yuli and platoon (Reddick at first) with Diaz.” Another proposed packaging Yuli with prospects for the White Sox’ Jose Abreu.
It’s understandable. At a position usually reserved for sluggers, Yuli Gurriel was hitting 81 wRC+, nineteen percent below league average. He had five home runs in 304 plate appearances. The Astros were reportedly even in on the bidding for Edwin Encarnacion, so disenchanted were they with Yuli’s output. At 35, had old-man time finally caught up with the former superstar of international baseball?
Since June 23rd Yuli Gurriel has gone on a hitting spree that is truly unprecedented. In eleven games he has nine home runs, the most home runs in a comparable time span in Astros history. His slash line is as follows: .400/.449./1.067. Yeah, that’s a 1.516 OPS, a 289 wRC+! Waaat? In 49 PAs he has 18 hits, three doubles, 13 runs and 18 RBI. Eighteen RBI in eleven games? These aren’t just hits, they are clutch hits, they are often times dramatic, game-winning hits. In this era of Yordan-mania, I think Yuli’s recent streak goes under-appreciated. Let’s examine his amazing contributions over this span, game by game.
June 23rd, 2019. Astros @ Yankees
Gurriel went 2-4, with two runs scored and an RBI on a solo hoe run. His performance that day was overshadowed by the home run by the newly returned Jose Altuve and, of course, the seventh home run by Jordan Alvarez. Recap title was: Cuban Missiles down Yankees, 9-4. At game’s end Gurriel’s OPS was .696 for the season
Yordan + Yuli = Cuban connection! #TakeItBack pic.twitter.com/cOOFRgiBLI— Houston Astros (@astros) June 23, 2019
June 25th, 2019. Prates @ Astros
In a game featuring the return of George Springer from IL, Gurriel provided the main offensive punch in the Astros’ 5-1 victory over the Pirates. He was 2-3 with a home run, and 2 RBI.
If it's fair, it's gone.... it was fair. #TakeItBack pic.twitter.com/1pTTue1w2S— Houston Astros (@astros) June 26, 2019
June 26th, June 27th, Pirates @ Astros.
Yuli was relatively quiet in these two games, only going 3-8, with a double. The Astros were shellacked by a total of 24-2 in these two games.
June 28th, Mariners @ Astros
Gurriel was “only” 1-5 in this game, but what a one for five it was. A walk-off ninth inning home run against AL West rival Seattle at a time when the Stros were reeling and the Rangers breathing down their backs. Stros win 2-1.
Winning in style. #TakeItBack pic.twitter.com/QjG73HXuyd— Houston Astros (@astros) June 29, 2019
June 29th, 2019 Mariners @ Astros
Another rare 1 fer game for Yuli during this stretch, and one of the only three games he didn’t homer. But again Yuli walks it off, this time in the tenth inning as the Astros win 6-5.
La Piña owns the spotlight!!#TakeItBack pic.twitter.com/9lM9W2eLst— Houston Astros (@astros) June 30, 2019
Walking off with a series win! #TakeItBack pic.twitter.com/zF4g7DyzVG— Houston Astros (@astros) June 30, 2019
June 30th, 2019, Mariners @ Astros
Yuli got a day off. Astros win 6-1.
July 2nd, 2019, Astros @ Rockies
Apparently Yuli was just getting started. In this game he went 3-5 with four RBI, two home runs and an RBI single. Obviously the main force behind the Astros’ 9-8 win in the Mile-High City. His OPS now sits at .756.
Trading blows!— Houston Astros (@astros) July 3, 2019
Back on top in the 2nd. #TakeItBack pic.twitter.com/YqgquVYsZJ
July 3rd, 2019, Astros @ Rockies
Gurriel is 2-4 with another home run in the Astros’ 4-2 win in Denver.
Cuban links & Coors lasers.— Houston Astros (@astros) July 4, 2019
450ft, this one was out anywhere.#TakeItBack pic.twitter.com/kA5nE87EVk
July 5th, 2019, Angels @ Astros
Through no fault of Yuli Gurriel, the Astros lost this one 5-4, although Yuli hit a two run homer and had 3 RBI. His eighth inning homer brought the Astros to within one run, but the team could not finish the job in the ninth.
x @el_yuly10 gets us within 1. #TakeItBack pic.twitter.com/YgormdjSY0— Houston Astros (@astros) July 6, 2019
July 6th, 2019, Angels vs. Astros
The Astros cruised to victory in this one behind the shutout pitching of Gerrit Cole and the rest of the staff. Gurriel added a homer and an RBI to the 4-0 victory.
Finding the sweet spot.— Houston Astros (@astros) July 7, 2019
Back-to-back-to-back-to-back games with a homer! #TakeItBack pic.twitter.com/A2SabFpg2r
July 7th, 2019, Angels vs Astros
Hard to win when you’re playing the Angels and you spot Mike Trout two homers and the whole team 10 runs. But when Yuli is on a tear you can still win. George Springer got credit for the walk-off hit in the 10th to give the Stros the 11-10 victory, but the big blow was Yuli’s grand slam in the sixth to tie the score at 8-8. It didn’t seem possible that he could come through yet again, but he did. He was 2-4 in this game, with two walks, four RBI, and three runs scored.
5 straight games with a .— Houston Astros (@astros) July 7, 2019
This one was just a little more grand. #TakeItBack pic.twitter.com/Ii9e4x84oF
At the conclusion of this game Gurriel’s OPS stands at the brink of .800 (.796), and his wRC+, so absymal on June 18th, is now at 110, from 19 percent below league average, to 10 percent above in just eleven games half way through the season. During this time, his fWAR went from -0.2 to 1.1. In two weeks he has created 1.3 wins. But when you look at how important and timely his hits have been, it seems like way more than that. He has homered in five consecutive games.
Prior to Gurriel’s home run binge, the Astros had just come off a seven game losing streak. Since Gurriel’s bashing of nine homers in the last eleven games he has played the Astros record is 8-3, 9-3 since June 23rd.
Final thought. On Sunday June 30th, on the Astros radio pre-game show, I heard with my own ears Jeff Luhnow explain why Gurriel was so hot. We often go round and round about this issue here at TCB, but Luhnow explained that while in New York, Gurriel had a visit with Carlos Beltran, and got some tips.
How important was Carlos Beltran to the championship team as mentor? Yet another piece of evidence that says, very.
So who’s on first? Yuli