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Astros AM Breakdown: Examining Yuli Gurriel in key situations

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HOUSTON, TX - JULY 05: Yuli Gurriel #10 of the Houston Astros receives a high five from manager manager AJ Hinch #14 after singling in the winning run in the ninth inning against the Chicago White Sox at Minute Maid Park on July 5, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - JULY 05: Yuli Gurriel #10 of the Houston Astros receives a high five from manager manager AJ Hinch #14 after singling in the winning run in the ninth inning against the Chicago White Sox at Minute Maid Park on July 5, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) /
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The Astros won a baseball game over the White Sox thanks to a walk-off single by Yuli Gurriel. This is the sentence that truly matters in light of the game.

If you take one look at the Astros‘ lineup, you’d see numerous hitters that can change a game with one swing of the bat. All in all, Houston has one of the best lineups in baseball. But some players tend to show up more in certain situations than others.

Let’s take Yuli Gurriel as an example.

Over the course of the 2018 season, Gurriel has a 1.007 OPS in medium leverage situations. In high leverage, his OPS drops to .717, but still solid. Strangely enough, Gurriel has an awful OPS of .535 in low leverage situations.

To be frank, I was a bit surprised that Gurriel’s OPS wasn’t higher in high leverage situations when I checked Baseball-Reference. And when I hopped over to FanGraphs leaderboards to view another source, my conclusion was supported.

High leverage: 53 wRC+

Medium leverage: 171 wRC+

Low leverage: 68 wRC+

It is key to note that Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs do not treat each plate appearance with the same leverage. For example, here is the breakdown of plate appearances based on the leverage situations on Baseball-Reference. Note that Gurriel has 297 plate appearances for the 2018 following Thursday’s game.

Baseball-Reference leverage situation by plate appearance

High leverage: 64 PA

Medium leverage: 114 PA

Low leverage: 119 PA

And here is the leverage situation by plate appearance over at FanGraphs.

FanGraphs leverage situation by plate appearance

High leverage: 32 PA

Medium leverage: 128 PA

Low leverage: 137 PA

The sum of plate appearances by both sites equals 297 once you’d account for Thursday’s game. It is clear that both sites have different criteria on what qualifies as a particular leverage situation. This difference would explain why Gurriel’s OPS in high leverage situations was higher than his low leverage situations, yet it was the opposite by wRC+ on FanGraphs. Regardless, Gurriel’s knack for showing up in key spots, such as medium leverage situations, is quite notable.

When the Astros had the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning on Thursday, Gurriel stepped up to the plate. His resulting walk-off single was another example of Gurriel stepping up in notable moments. Of course, Gurriel’s home run off of Dodgers’ starter Clayton Kershaw in Game 5 of the World Series will be an eternal franchise highlight. There are even more examples of Gurriel stepping up, but I won’t delve too much for the sake of brevity.

The local perception surrounding Gurriel in critical moments is currently favorable. And there is more evidence to back this statement than leverage situations. For example, with runners in scoring position, no matter the number of outs, Gurriel has a .999 OPS. With runners in scoring position with two outs, the age-34 first baseman has an impressive 1.081 OPS. When the game is considered “late & close”, Gurriel has a .858 OPS.

Note from Baseball-Reference about “Late & Close” situations: “Late & Close are Plate Appearances in the 7th or later with the batting team tied, ahead by one, or the tying run at least on deck.”

There is also his performance when there are a particular number of outs.

0 outs: .815 OPS

1 out: .577 OPS

2 outs: .907 OPS

Gurriel tends to show up when the stakes are a bit higher depending on the number of outs, specifically two outs. Depending on how you’d view leverage situations, Gurriel also shows up when the stakes are higher. And if there are runners in scoring position, well, the opposing pitcher better watch out.

Houston Astros News and Notes From Around FanSided

Top draft pick, Seth Beer, making his presence felt quickly [Climbing Tal’s Hill – Jake Schornick]

Let’s vote Yuli Gurriel into the 2018 All-Star Game [Climbing Tal’s Hill – Eric Huysman]

Is Hector Rondon an option for a long-term closer? [Call To The Pen – Kyle Cardoza]

More Houston Astros and General Baseball News From Around the Internet

Although disappointed, Astros’ Justin Verlander understands decision to not pitch in All-Star Game [Houston Chronicle – David Barron]

Hitting on all cylinders: Altuve on elite pace [MLB.com – Andrew Simon]

Should the Nationals consider trading Harper? [MLB.com – Mike Petriello]

Next: Astros Minor League Spotlight: Garrett Stubbs

We hope you enjoyed this edition of the AM Breakdown.

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