Milwaukee Brewers fans entered last season with dreams of, among other things, a repeat MVP performance for Christian Yelich. By the beginning of September, that seemed like a real possibility.
A largely two-way battle was waged for most of last year between Christian Yelich of the Brewers and Cody Bellinger of the Dodgers for the 2019 National League MVP, eventually landing both as finalists for the award. And after the Nationals went on a huge surge to put themselves in playoff contention, Anthony Rendon would end up being a finalist as well.
Though named as a finalist, Yelich’s chances to repeat took a hit in early September when he suffered a broken kneecap that prematurely ended his season. Still, depending on who you talked to, his chances at winning remained very good even while not finishing out the year. As it turns out, the Brewers’ star right fielder would end up falling just short.
Sure, Yelich had his season ended early due to injury. But Bellinger also ended up having a better season defensively than Yelich did and both of those factors combined may have been what pushed the Dodgers’ outfielder over the top.
How did the votes shake out?
As predicted, it was pretty much down to Yelich and Bellinger in the end. Bellinger received 19 of 30 first place votes while Yelich garnered 10 in finishing as runner up. Rendon grabbed a single first place vote for himself to finish third.
Yelich easily led the way in second place votes, grabbing 18 to Bellinger’s 10, and earned a single third place vote as well. But unlike the Manager of the Year award which saw Brewers manager Craig Counsell receive the most first place votes but lose the award to Cardinals manager Mike Shildt who led the way in second place votes, that’s not how things worked out in the vote for MVP.
How did the numbers stack up?
Offensively, Yelich found himself at or near the top of many National League leaderboards. On top of just barely bringing home another NL batting title by just decimals over Arizona’s Ketel Marte, his entire .329/.429/.671 slash line, not to mention 1.100 OPS, led the NL. Rendon ranked top three in all four categories, while Bellinger was 9th in batting average and top three in the other three stats.
On top of that, Yelich also led the league in OPS+ with a 179, compared to 169 for Bellinger and 153 for Rendon, who ranked second and third, respectively. Yelich also led the league with a wRC+ of 174, ahead of Bellinger’s 162 and Rendon’s 154, also placing them second and third in the NL. And don’t forget Yelich’s 30 steals, which tied him for third in the NL. Neither Bellinger nor Rendon finished in the top 10.
That’s not to say that Yelich led the other two in all offensive categories. Bellinger’s 47 home runs edged out the 44 by Yelich and 34 by Rendon and he also led the three in extra base hits (85) and total bases (351). Rendon, meanwhile, led the trio, not to mention the NL, in runs batted in with 126 and doubles with 44.
Where Bellinger may have set himself apart was in his defensive game. Bellinger was fourth in the NL in defensive runs saved with 19 and sixth in UZR at 9.5. Neither Yelich (-1 DRS, 1.9 UZR) or Rendon (2 DRS, 2.0 UZR) found themselves ranked in the top 50 of either category in the NL. Add the fact that Bellinger won the NL Gold Glove for right fielders, though the MVP voting was done before that was announced and you can see how the race becomes much closer.
2019 didn’t result in a deep playoff run like many Brewers fans had hoped, but a near second straight MVP award for the team’s star player at least somewhat speaks to a bright future ahead. Whether that future includes another chance at MVP for Yelich, we’ll have to wait and see.