Milwaukee Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun won the National League MVP in 2011. Christian Yelich should win the 2018 NL MVP. Which player had the better year?
The Milwaukee Brewers have one player on their roster who already has an MVP, and another player who should win his first. In 2011, Ryan Braun was a force of nature who lead the Brewers to an NL Central title. In 2018, Christian Yelich was also a force of nature who lead the Brewers to an NL Central title. Who would you rather have in the heart of the lineup?
What do the raw numbers say?
They say that Braun and Yelich were ridiculous.
Braun posted a .332/.397/.597 slash line in 629 plate appearances. He bashed 33 homers, and swiped 33 bases. Braun also scored 109 runs, and drove in 111.
Yelich slashed .326/.402/.598 in 651 plate appearances. He crushed 36 homers, and stole 22 bases in 26 attempts. He scored 118 times, and drove in 110 runs.
Braun managed a career-high 7.1 WAR, while Yelich posted a career-high 7.6 WAR.
How about defensive metrics?
Yelich has greater range and a better arm than Braun did, but the numbers aren’t that far off. Braun only made one error in the field in 2011, and racked up eight assists. His UZR, or ultimate zone rating, for 2011 was -3.9. UZR is a comprehensive measure of range, throwing arm, and errors committed. Braun’s mark is below average, but not terrible. He was perfectly fine in left field for the 2011 Milwaukee Brewers.
Yelich played all three outfield positions for the 2018 Milwaukee Brewers. He racked up four assists, and committed three errors, but his 0.6 UZR indicates that he was the superior overall defender to Braun.
How did Braun do in the MVP voting?
Braun picked up 20 out of 32 first place votes, but only won the MVP award by 56 vote points. Matt Kemp picked up 10 first place votes, and finished just behind Braun.
Voting hasn’t started for Yelich, but he should win by a larger margin than Braun did. Kemp actually had a higher WAR than Braun, and was one homer shy of a 40/40 season. No one, not even Javier Baez, is close to Yelich, and that should be reflected in the voting.
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Overall, Yelich’s 2018 season should get the nod over Braun’s 2011 season, but it’s close. Yelich and Braun’s seasons at the plate were almost identical, but Yelich’s defense and versatility gives him an edge. However, both players had MVP-worthy seasons. Braun already has the hardware, and Yelich should earn his soon enough.