Yuli Gurriel is having a helluva season so far in 2021 for the Houston Astros. In 84 games, it’s been an outstanding offensive showing that’s even more unbelievable when you compare it to the poor stats he posted in 2021. But this time, the Astros need more for the second half.
That last sentence pops up a question: Can the 37-year-old star provide the same level of production he provided in 2019 after the All-Star break?
To put it in context, Gurriel had a second half for the ages two years ago. He posted a .326/.382/.623 slash line, along with 77 total hits, 19 doubles, 17 home runs, 54 RBIs, 37 runs scored, a 1.005 OPS, and only 29 strikeouts through 259 plate appearances.
That year, the Astros —in part thanks to what Gurriel did at the batter’s box— went 50-22 in the second half to finish first in the AL West with a overall record of 107 wins and 55 losses.
This time, despite his big numbers, Gurriel cooled off in the past two weeks. In fact, he got only 10 hits (nine singles) and two RBIs in his final 14 games before the break (59 plate appearances). Over that period, in which many Astros’ hitters were off, Gurriel posted a poor .192/.271/.212 and saw his overall average fall from .337 to .313.
Maybe the fact that he wasn’t invited to the All-Star Game might help him get some rest and recover to face the shortest part of the season with the Astros battling to secure first place in their division. Who knows? It might easily be a matter of tiredness.
Gurriel’s average exit velocity went from 90.9 miles per hour (April 1 to June 26) to 88.4 MPH (June 27 to July 11), which could be a cause for his low .213 BABIP during the second period. Also, his launch angle lowered from 14º to 7º, which led to more infield grounders, as you can see in the image below...
Now, Gurriel —just like his teammates— will have some days to put things together and get his rhythm again. The second half of the season is going to kick off on Friday, with the Astros beginning a three-game series against the Chicago White Sox. To repeat what he did two years ago —or at least do something similar to that— will be the major challenge for Gurriel.