Throughout the biggest part of his first 25 games in 2022, Yuli Gurriel was unrecognizable at the plate. The reigning AL batting champ had a poor .196/.237/.315 slash line from April 7 to May 7 with only five runs batted in and 16 strikeouts across 92 plate appearances. When you’re 37 years old and kick off a season like that, doubts begin to cross everyone’s head.
But Gurriel seems to be improving, or at least that’s what his recent hot streak says. From May 10 to 18, La Piña is slashing .375/.400/.719 as a result of going 12-for-32 with two doubles, three home runs, and seven driven in. Over that eight-game span, he’s only struck out four times.
Gurriel is making better contact and being more aggressive at the plate. As a reason of concern during his first 25 games, his average exit velocity was at 85.6 miles per hour, way below than league average. In his last eight games, that number has gone up to 89.2 MPH. Besides, you can also note the difference in the quality of his impacts…
From April 7 to May 7: 1.3 Barrel % | 32.9 HardHit % | 14.5 LD % | 40.8 GB %
From May 10 to 18: 3.4 Barrel % | 41.4 HardHit % | 24.1 LD % | 27.6 GB %
Gurriel has begun to chase more pitches and make more swings. His percentage of swings at pitches outside the zone went from 33.0% to 43.7% in the second period while his swing percentage went slightly up from 46.2% to 50.4%. That trend of being more aggressive makes him sacrifice contact (88.8% against 77.6%), but as long as Gurriel keeps hitting the way he is lately, I don’t mind if his contact lowers a bit as it’s still elite – his strikeout percentage went from 16.5 to 11.4.
Gurriel might be struggling with bat speed. Besides his low exit velocity to begin the season, he hasn’t been able to hit fastballs as well as usual. This year, he’s averaging .208 against fastballs (.219 XBA) while showing a .292 slugging percentage off those pitches, with no home runs.
Most of Gurriel’s hard-hit base hits have been to left field, but he seems to go to the opposite field every time he connects a fastball as the image below will show you. Here is every ball Gurriel has put in play this year against the MLB’s fastest pitches (sinker, two-seamer, four-seamer, cutter)...
Hopefully, Gurriel will keep it going. He’s talented and good enough to prove he can overcome this rough start as this recent hot streak suggests. The Astros need Yuli at his best. Time will tell.