Should the Astros Bring Back Yuli?

First, I LOVE Yuli Gurriel and what he has done for our Astros team and for the City of Houston. He has helped build connections to other Cuban players and helped them decide to come play for the Houston organization. He is loved in the city of Houston in general. He had a tremendous post season in 2022.

That is what makes discussing the merits of Yuli returning difficult as we are planning for the 2023 Houston Astros season. For the last several days multiple people have said on social media in essence they don't CARE what any analysis says or even if it is the smart decision- THEY WANT YULI BACK.


I have seen people call for giving him a 50% raise. I have seen people push all of the false narratives that I have proven false here so many times. I have heard talk about postseason Yuli like he is not a player who is 0.711 OPS and 93 wRC+ in the postseason.


ENOUGH IS ENOUGH


So let me ask you before we go on- are you willing to have a rational data based discussion about whether Yuli Gurriel should return to the Astros in 2023? Are you willing to listen to FACTS about how he compared to his peers in 2022? Are you willing to consider three year trends in his data? Are you?


If not, close this article and move on. It's fine. We can still be friends, but let's agree that we won't discuss Yuli ever again. Maybe come back to this article later.


Here is the video for this article.


If you are still here let me start with four visuals that don't require a lot of explanation.


Yuli vs. other 1B in 2022 (300 PA Minimum)- I don't need you to read these charts. Just glance at them. Yuli's spot on these lists of his peers at 1B will be the shaded line.


OPS 39 of 42 (0.647)

WRC+ 38 of 42 (85)

Defensive WAR 40 of 42 (-16.3)

Overall WAR 40 of 42 (-0.9)

Yes, that was Yuli Gurriel in 2022- a 38 year old 1B whose manager demanded that he play 146 games in 2022 (90%). Why so much? I wrote that Yuli was a completely different player the day after a day off in 2022. Read here


In summary, that 0.647 OPS player was a 0.842 OPS player (better than Abreu, Rizzo, Walker, Bell, etc.) after a day off. He was a 0.602 OPS player without the day off.


This was PART of the reason Yuli was so successful in the post season- REST. Due to the Astros success in the Postseason, Yuli was able to have an off day before eight of the thirteen games they played.


So the question IS will the manager that INSISTED on playing the 38 year old 90% of the time going to give him the rest he needs? How would this team manage with an essentially PART-TIME First Baseman? Can it work? Yes. Will it work? I have concerns.


So yes, 2022 was a train wreck of a year for Gurriel. All projection systems do not expect him to be that bad in 2023.

2023 Projection

PA

OPS

wRC+

def WAR

WAR

Gurriel

511

0.704

100

-11.3

0.6

The real issue is do you REALLY think Gurriel is NOT regressing due to age if he gets rest?


You might dismiss 2022 as a fluke.


If so, what about career Yuli? Well let's compare the last five Astros to man 1B with significant PT.


You might think this is an absolute no brainer Yuli is having a FAR better career than any of those guys. Is he? No, its about the same as Trey Mancini and Chris Carter.

Player

Current Age

wRC+

OPS

Gurriel

38

111

0.776

Mancini

30

111

0.787

Carter

35

110

0.768

A. Diaz

32

105

0.718

M. Gonzalez

33

94

0.709

EVERY ONE of those players is younger today than Yuli Gurriel. Yes CHRIS CARTER is younger than Yuli Gurriel. I am not advocating for Carter to come out of retirement.


At this point you may have said wait Yuli is basically having the same career as .... CHRIS CARTER? Yes, from an overall production standpoint, but in VASTLY different ways.


Let me ask you how did you feel when Chris Carter retired two season after he left the Astros in 2017? What did you think of him as a player?


We as humans suffer generally from recency bias. So with many players we generally think of them in terms of what they have done in the last season or maybe the last three seasons.


We already did the last season for Yuli. What did Carter look like his last three years?

Age

PA

wRC+

OPS

Def WAR

WAR

Carter (2015-17)

28-30

1312

104

0.763

-21.4

2.0

These years were deemed so bad Chris Carter could NOT get a MLB job in 2018.


I'm sure you are saying Larry, Yuli was AWESOME in 2021. Surely his 3-yr average is WAY better than this, right? NO sorry, it is not.

Age

PA

wRC+

OPS

Def WAR

WAR

Gurriel (2020-22)

36-38

1419

104

0.732

-28.7

2.4

Accounting for playing time this is essentially the same as Carter when Carter wasn't good enough to get a job and had to retire. To be completely fair, it is probably worse.


So NO, I don't think the Astros SHOULD bring back Yuli. If they do, they need to be prepared that whatever they pay him (I say $6M or less) may just be on a player that can be effective at less than 60% of the time.


Yes, I know the players on this TEAM love Yuli. Even if the answer is that there is no playing role for Yuli, I want him to stay connected to the Astros organization no matter what. He can be this generation's special assistant to the owner. He can recruit and scout. He most likely can coach players at EVERY level. Whatever non-playing role Yuli would be willing to take, I pay him 5 times what others make doing that.


This may all be irrelevant. Chandler Rome reported that Gurriel was diagnosed with a sprained right MCL. Here is what the Advent Physical Therapy site says about MCL Sprains.


MCL sprains are graded on a scale of one to three. If you’ve sprained your MCL, your doctor will classify it as one of the following grades:

  1. Grade one sprains are minor. This is a slight overstretching of the ligament that causes some pain and swelling that limit the use of the knee. This usually recovers after a few days or a couple of weeks of rest and physical therapy.

  2. Grade two sprains include more severe overstretching of the ligament or even small tears. These typically require two to four weeks for recovery. During this period, you’ll have to rest the knee as much as possible and perform physical rehabilitation exercises as instructed to improve the outcome of your recovery.

  3. A grade three tear is an intense tear that can take up to eight weeks for recovery. These kinds of tears are usually accompanied by other forms of damage, such as a torn meniscus or a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), which are other vital components of the knee.

There has been no real communication about the grade of Gurriel's MCL sprain. Will he even choose to do the intense rehab and try to play next year? Time will tell.


I will end this like I started. I LOVE Yuli Gurriel and what he has done for our Astros team and for the City of Houston. It is time to have a HUGE retirement party to show him our love.


Let me know what you think.


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