Milwaukee Brewers right fielder Christian Yelich was the best baseball player in the National League last year. He’s started the 2019 campaign on an absolute tear. Will he start to get intentionally walked?
Pitching to Christian Yelich has to feel awful. The pitcher knows that if he even comes close a mistake, Yelich will make him pay for it. Could it be easier to just give Yelich a free pass and try the next batter? How would this impact the Milwaukee Brewers’ offense?
How hot is Yelich right now?
Through the first four games of the 2019 season, Yelich has a .500/.667/1.583 slash line. He’s blasted a homer in each of the four games he’s played in, scored six times, and driven in eight. He also sliced a double in the bottom of the ninth with two runners on, and ended the weekend with a walk-off.
Yelich, simply put, is the hottest hitter in all of baseball right now.
Could the Cardinals have walked Yelich in the 9th inning?
They could have, sure. They already walked Yelich intentionally after Lorenzo Cain lead off the third inning with a double, so why not issue another free pass?
If the Cardinals walked Yelich in the bottom of the ninth, they would have loaded the bases for Ryan Braun with no outs. Even if Braun grounded into a double play, the Milwaukee Brewers could have tied the game. They wouldn’t have been walked off by Yelich, but the odds were clearly in the Brewers’ favor once they had a few runners on.
Will other teams start walking Yelich?
If first base is open, Yelich could very well start to find himself standing on it instead of getting his chance. The Cardinals chose to pitch to Yelich in the ninth inning, and now they’re going to have a walk-off played on every baseball highlight show. Other teams are going to take notice of the current hot streak.
Cain could benefit from Yelich’s hot streak. He could start to see more fastballs and sinkers early in the count to get him out or behind in the count. If Cain is able to get on with a base hit off a heater or draw a walk, Yelich is more likely to get hittable pitches with a runner on first.
It’s also going to depend on the hitters behind Yelich to make other teams pay for walking him. Braun, Travis Shaw, and Jesus Aguilar are going to have to make those walks hurt. The good news is that Braun and Shaw are off to solid starts to the season. Both have an OPS over .800, while Aguilar was cold against the Cardinals. Aguilar’s current OPS is only .334. That number needs to rise if the team wants Yelich to keep seeing pitches.