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Christian Yelich Player Profile
Christian Yelich has had a busy offseason, starting with earning the NL MVP after a torrid second half season. He also teamed up with Mike Moustakas [Player Profile], Ryan Braun, and Mike Attanasio, son of Brewers owner Mark Attanasio, to form the California Strong Campaign, which raises money for wildfire and shooting victims. Yelich donated $25,000 to help kick-off the fundraising.
A wealth of information is discussed here – everything from Yelich’s strong genes and new Reds, bi-cycle to his career NL numbers and a look at this upcoming season.
Get Acquainted with Yelich
Pencil Drawing Courtesy of Desere Mayo
His nickname is nothing fancy. It’s “Yeli”. The simplicity of his nickname couldn’t be more appropriate. “Yeli” goes about his business without letting the prestige of being an athlete affect how he plays the game. This is how he has always been.
Brewers West Coast Regional Supervisor Corey Rodriguez has kept a keen eye on Yelich. Yelich played for the Brewers team in the Area Games as a high school sophomore, which Rodriguez oversaw. Rodriguez had this to say about Yelich in an interview with Lori Nickel:
“He was always willing to put in the time to work hard. He respected his teammates, the coaching staff, he had a great disposition. Not entitled. Hard worker. He had ability too.”
Yelich is blessed with a set of genes that would make Levi Strauss jealous. (Genes/jeans – pretty punny) Numerous people in his family have put their talents on display for high-profile teams.
For starters, Collin Yelich, Christian’s younger brother, played baseball with the Atlanta Braves organization as a catcher/first baseman. He is now out of baseball. Also, Christian’s uncle on his father’s side, Chris Yelich, played football for UCLA as an offensive lineman. However, Yelich’s athletic bloodlines do not stop here. His mother’s side also has a strong gene pool.
Yelich’s mother’s side boasts a Hall of Fame football player – Clarence Fred Gehrke. Gehrke was a halfback for the Cleveland/St. Louis Rams. In 1945 and 1946 he led the league in yards per rushing attempt with an average of 6.3 and 5.2, respectively, ultimately earning All-Pro honors both years.
While Gehrke was a very good football player, he made other contributions to the game that no doubt padded his resume for induction to the Hall of Fame. He designed the league’s very first football logo. The logo seen on Rams helmets today is the same one designed by Gehrke. He is also credited with developing the first facemask.
Inside the Numbers
What isn’t there to like about Christian Yelich’s 2018 stats? He was a machine. His 2018 WAR of 7.6 was 1st in the National League and 6th in all of baseball. He was 1st in the NL in slugging and total bases. Yelich was the NL batting champion with a .326 average. He stole 22 bases in 26 attempts for an 85% success rate. He was just 2 home runs and 1 RBI short of a Triple Crown. His OPS even gives the appearance of a perfect season, coming in at exactly 1.000, which also was 1st in the NL. These are the numbers of the 2018 NL MVP.
With Yelich leading so many different categories it is difficult to pick just one category to evaluate his play. What stat does Yelich use to gauge his own performance? The New York Times asks Yelich in an interview this same question and Yelich replies:
“I feel like probably the biggest one is OPS. It’s the biggest stat that people take value from in the game, from the people who evaluate it and the people who play it. Just because it’s slugging and on-base — two of the things that make up a productive baseball player.”
Certainly, it is appropriate that all Yelich tables below, and tables in other Brewer’s Player Profiles, are ranked primarily by OPS.
Yelich by NL Opponent
Throughout Yelich’s career, Cincinnati Reds pitchers have been very generous to him. Reds pitchers have served him a line of .309/.383/.574 for an OPS of .957. Just last year, Cincinnati gifted Yelich a new, Reds, bi-cycle. More eloquently stated, Yelich hit for the cycle against the Reds twice last year – a Reds bi-cycle. The feat is as new as it comes. It was the first time in Major League history that a player has hit for the cycle against the same team twice in one season. Yelich hit the cycles within 3 weeks of each other, making the accomplishment even more amazing. The video below by MLB.com relives Yelich’s new, Reds, bi-cycle:
As shown in the table below, another division rival has had difficulty containing Yelich throughout his career – the St. Louis Cardinals. They rank 3rd on Yelich’s list with a line of .303/.374/.566 for an OPS of .940 against him. The Cubs are the peskiest division rival, holding Yelich to a line of .266/.328/.377/.704, ranking as his second worst NL team to face.
NL Stadium Performance
Looking at the table below, Yelich has great success in many NL Central Stadiums. Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis are his top 3 NL Stadiums to play in. His BA at PNC Park in Pittsburgh is a whopping .352. It is his best BA at any NL stadium. If it was not for his extremely high batting average there, PNC Park would not rank as high on this list.
Surprisingly, Coors Field is his least favorite NL Stadium to play in. He hasn’t hit one homer there in 93 PAs. Certainly, his numbers at high-altitude Colorado can expect to go up. He is too good of a hitter to not take advantage of this ballpark.
Favorite and Least Favorite NL Pitchers
It’s downright amazing that 2 of Yelich’s top 4 pitchers to face have 6 Cy Young Awards and 1 MVP between them. Those two players are Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw. As far as batter vs pitcher matchups go these are decent sample sizes. He has more PA’s against these 2 players than anyone else on the list with 28 for Scherzer and 23 for Kershaw.
Yelich is a valuable defensive player for the Brewers in the outfield. He is the backup in centerfield for Lorenzo Cain. This frees up Stearns and Counsell to place a non-centerfielder on the 25 man roster. Additionally, he is a Gold-Glover, which he won as a member of the Marlins in 2014. While most of his Gold Glove action came in left field, he plays all 3 outfield positions effectively. He seems to catch practically everything, anywhere – even a fish at a fish market. Check out his skills in the Twitter clip below:
— megan YELI MVP brown (@thatgirlondeck) April 18, 2017
Entering his Prime
The contrast in numbers between Yelich’s first half and second half is astronomical. Yelich’s difference in slash lines between the 2 halves is .075/.085/.311 for a difference in OPS of .396. Obviously, Yelich was coming into his own last year. His second half propelled him to the NL MVP trophy. It is logical that Yelich will produce numbers somewhere in between his first half and last half, simply because the two halves were so polarizing.
Lorenzo Cain agrees. This is what he says about Yelich in an interview with MLB.com:
“He’s in his prime. I think he can go out there and do the same thing,” said Cain. “I don’t see why not. He has the swing for it and he’s entering the prime of his career. I think he’ll go out there and put up solid numbers again, if not repeat. I’m just going to try to get on as much as possible so he can drive me in.”
Ability to Adjust
The key word that Lorenzo Cain says here is “entering”. One of the keys to being a good hitter in the Major Leagues is the ability to make adjustments. Yelich has done just that. Around the All-Star break last year he went to manager Craig Counsell to tell him he “had something figured out”. After that, he took off. Whatever adjustments he made certainly paid off.
As Jack Stern notes in his article projecting Yelich’s 2019 season, one of the adjustments Yelich made was tapping into some of his power potential. Granted, maintaining the type of power seen during the second half last year certainly isn’t a reasonable expectation, which Jack also discusses. However, Yelich first entered his prime after last year’s all-star break. This season he will be playing a full season during his prime with his newfound power. As a result, all-star numbers are a distinct probability. He doesn’t have to match the pace he set during the second half last year to do it. Regardless, it’s safe to say that ticketholders at Miller Park are in for a treat watching him play this year.
- The National League team that Yelich has done the best job of containing Yelich so far in his career is the Milwaukee Brewers. He has put together a line of .219/.374/.288 with a .661 OPS in 91 PA against Milwaukee pitching.
- Yelich was part of an outstanding 1st round crop or players in 2010. Notable selections are as follows: Bryce Harper 1st to Nationals; Manny Machado 3rd to Orioles; teammate Yasmani Grandal 12th to Reds; Chris Sale 13th by White Sox; Dylan Covey 14th to Brewers (did not sign), Yelich 23rd by Marlins.
- He moonlights as a writer. Yelich has done some writing in his day for The Player’s Tribune. He wrote “Milwaukee … Let’s GOOOOOOOOOO!” during the playoff push last year and also wrote, “The 5 Toughest Pitchers in the NL East”. Both articles can be found here.
- Hollywood star in the making? Yelich makes a cameo appearance on MacGyver that you can view below:
— Christian Yelich (@ChristianYelich) March 4, 2019
Next Milwaukee Brewer Player Profile
Again, this is just one of many profiles in a compilation. The next player profile up is revealed with clues.
- He hit .544 and .560 his high school junior and senior seasons, respectively.
- One might say he’s successful in politics.
- Hostess should sign him to an endorsement deal.
- He is…