Gurriel vying for rare postseason history

Houston's first baseman has no-strikeout streak entering World Series

October 21st, 2019

Here's something crazy: Yuli Gurriel has played every inning of every game for the Astros this postseason, and he still hasn't struck out.

That's 11 playoff games and 46 plate appearances without a single strikeout. Impressive enough in any era, but especially in 2019, when pitchers are better than ever, Major League Baseball just reset its single-season strikeout record for a 12th straight year and hitters struck out once every 4.36 plate appearances.

But this is what the Astros do. This season, they became the first team to record the most strikeouts in the Majors as a pitching staff and the fewest strikeouts as an offense. Gurriel helped lead the charge, striking out just 65 times, fewest of any Houston regular. In the postseason, he has taken it to another level.

Gurriel's playoff streak of not striking out actually goes back to last year. All told, he's on a run of 62 consecutive postseason plate appearances without a strikeout. He has played 14 full games, and most of a 15th, since the last time he struck out in October (his first at-bat of Game 2 of the 2018 American League Championship Series).

With the World Series about to begin, here are the most amazing things about Gurriel's no-strikeout streak:

Few have gone an entire postseason without striking out

Only five players have finished a postseason with 40 or more plate appearances and no strikeouts.

40+ PA with zero K, single postseason:
Joey Cora, 1995 Mariners (51 PA)
Tim Foli, 1979 Pirates (48 PA)
Sid Bream, 1992 Braves (44 PA)
Fernando Vina, 2002 Cardinals (40 PA)
Ozzie Smith, 1982 Cardinals (40 PA)

Gurriel's on the longest strikeout-less streak in over 20 years

Gurriel's playoff streak of 62 plate appearances without a strikeout is the longest since Cora also went 62 plate appearances between postseason strikeouts in 1993, '95 and '97.

The last player with a longer stretch than Gurriel? Willie Randolph, who went 63 plate appearances without a strikeout in 1981 and '90.

Gurriel could leapfrog both of those if he can avoid the K for just a few more plate appearances in the Fall Classic. It won't be easy -- the Nationals have a rotation full of strikeout artists, and the best of them, Max Scherzer, is pitching Game 1. But the Rays and Yankees had strikeout pitchers, too, and Gurriel didn't go down once against them.

Gurriel isn't catching the all-time record holder this year. Yankees legend Yogi Berra went an incredible 105 consecutive postseason plate appearances without striking out from 1956-61. But there's a chance that, when the 2019 World Series is over, it's Yogi, Yuli and then everyone else.

Gurriel's 11-game run this year ties a record

Gurriel has taken at least three plate appearances in every game this postseason (five AL Division Series, six ALCS). His 11-game streak with at least three plate appearances and no strikeouts is tied for the longest within a single postseason.

Only three others have done it:
David Eckstein, 2006 Cardinals (NLDS Game 1 through NLCS Game 7)
Joey Cora, 1995 Mariners (ALDS Game 1 through ALCS Game 6)
Dusty Baker, 1981 Dodgers (NLDS Game 1 through World Series Game 1)

One full World Series game without a strikeout, and Gurriel will have possession of the longest streak.

For some extra reference, during the 2019 regular season, only five players had a streak of at least 11 games with three or more plate appearances and no strikeouts: Andrelton Simmons (one 15-game streak, one 11-game streak), Danny Jansen (12), David Fletcher (12), Nicky Lopez (11) and Kolten Wong (11).

Fourteen games is an all-time Top 5 streak

Expanding to multiple postseasons, Gurriel's 14 straight games with at least three plate appearances and no strikeouts is one of the five-longest such streaks. Gurriel is within striking distance of Berra's record 19-game streak, so long as the 2019 World Series goes at least five games and he continues to start.

Longest postseason streaks, 3-plus plate appearances and zero strikeouts:

  1. Yogi Berra: 19 games (1956-60 for NYY)
  2. Frankie Frisch: 18 games (1921-24 for NYG)
    3-T) Ozzie Smith: 15 games (1982-85 for STL)
    3-T) Larry Bowa: 15 games (1980-84 for PHI/CHC)

5-T) Yuli Gurriel: 14 games (2018-19 for HOU)
5-T) Manny Trillo: 14 games (1980-81 for PHI)
5-T) Phil Rizzuto: 14 games (1942-49 for NYY)

Gurriel just isn't missing

Houston's first baseman is making contact on 88 percent of his swings this postseason, which is tied for the highest contact rate of anyone in the playoffs (with the now-eliminated Brian McCann). Gurriel has maintained the same rate on far more swings.

When the pitch is in the strike zone, Gurriel is making contact 94.2 percent of the time. And even when he chases outside the zone, he makes contact 77.4 percent of the time, one of the highest rates in the playoffs.

If you don't miss when the pitch is in the zone, and you still don't miss when the pitch is out of the zone … well, that's how you get a no-strikeout October.