Christian Yelich’s Slump

Christian Yelich
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The Milwaukee Brewers entered their fourth weekend of games with a 7-10 record. While certainly not beyond recovery, the Brewers’ losing record is underwhelming. In 2019, the team placed second in the National League Central division, finishing 89-73. Their season ended after losing to the Washington Nationals in the NL Wild Card game. Though the Brewers lost some valuable free agents like Yasmani Grandal and Mike Moustakas over the winter, the team did not expect to lose their star player. Christian Yelich’s dramatic slump to begin the season has been surprising and disappointing for the Brewers.

The Brewers are struggling offensively across the board with an average team batting average of .212. Yelich, who led the league in batting average in 2019, is now batting .176, the worst of any qualifying Brewer. The 28-year-old is currently signed to a nine-year, $215 million dollar contract. 

Christian Yelich’s Career

The Miami Marlins traded Christian Yelich to the Brewers in 2018. That year, Yelich hit .326/.402/.598. He won the NL MVP award with 29 first-place votes. Yelich led the Brewers to their first NL Central division win since 2011. He has also won a Gold Glove, two Silver Sluggers Awards, and two Hank Aaron Awards.

Yelich had a spectacular season in 2019. He slashed .329/.429/.671 and hit 44 home runs. Yelich led all of baseball in slugging percentage. His season ended early when he fouled a ball off his knee on September 10 and suffered a broken kneecap. Even with an early exit, Yelich finished second in the NL MVP race with ten votes. He has clearly established himself as an elite player for the Brewers franchise. 

Yelich in 2020

Yelich had a terrible start to 2020. He had one hit and one walk over 28 plate appearances through the first six games. Yelich has a 32.1% strikeout rate. He has struck out three times in four games. Yelich has expressed frustration at his slump. After a game in which he had three strikeouts, he said, “there’s only one word to describe it, and it’s awful.” Yelich has struggled with contact this season. Per BaseballSavant, Yelich’s whiff rate is now 37.3%, compared to his 2019 whiff rate of 28.0% and the league average of 24.4%. Yelich’s struggles at the plate began during summer camp where he was 1 for 23, striking out 13 times.

All things considered, manager Craig Counsell remains optimistic. “You have to be yourself no matter what’s going on. There’s no reason to change who we are. We all deal with adversity and struggles differently…At the core, he’s a very humble guy who is frustrated by this.” Yelich is trying to work through any mental or mechanical issues that are affecting his plate appearances. 

It would be unfair to blame all of the Brewers’ problems on Yelich. In 2019, the Brewers went 13-5 without Yelich to end the season. In addition, Yelich’s offense has been slowly improving. He only has 12 hits this season, but eight of them have been for extra bases. Yelich slashed .292/.393/.667 over the last seven games. The Brewers can only hope that Christian Yelich’s slump is coming to an end and the Brewers can return to form as a competitive team in a competitive division. 

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