Brewers left fielder Christian Yelich had a July to forget. But halfway through August, the former MVP is beginning to look like himself again.
Friday night’s game against the Cubs went exactly how a Brewers fan would like a comeback over their rival to go. After losing a lead and going down 3-1 after five innings, a huge three-run homer was hit the very next inning to put Milwaukee right back on top for an eventual 4-3 win.
That bomb came off the bat of the team’s franchise player, Christian Yelich. It was his second deep home run hit at Wrigley Field this year and yet another sign that his season-opening slump could finally be a thing of the past.
To say Yelich’s month of July was atrocious would be a severe understatement. In six games, he went just 1 for 27 with a single walk and 12 strikeouts in 28 plate appearances. That equates to a minuscule .037 batting average and a 42.9 strikeout percentage.
Yelich’s struggles weren’t just a matter of bad luck. The star slugger looked lost at the plate, swinging through pitches he would normally rip (his Whiff% of 37.3% through 2020 is much higher than his career percentage of 24.3%). It was a problem that had begun manifesting as far back as the team’s Summer Camp.
But for a player of Yelich’s caliber, the slump was only likely to last so long. And while Yelich jokingly mentioned that a simple piece of gum was responsible for his breakthrough on Friday night, the truth is his return to form started much earlier.
The difference between July and August for Christian Yelich has been like night and day.
In his first game back in his home park, an August 3rd game against the White Sox, Yelich finally had the sort of game a player needs to break out of a bad slump. Yelich wound up going 2 for 4 with a single, a double, and a walk, increasing his hit production on the year by 200%.
After an 0 for 3 day with three strikeouts and a day off to clear his head, Yelich again started to show more progress. In a road game against the Sox, Yelich legged out an inside-the-park home run. But it was his four walks that day that was a further sign that he might be about to break out.
Things have only continued to improve since then, culminated by his game-winning bomb on Friday night. That homer gave him hits in 8 of his 11 games in August and a team leading five home runs on the year.
Yelich’s numbers in August look much more like what fans have come to expect. For the month so far, he has slashed .270/.413/.703 with a 1.116 OPS and a 191 wRC+. Though his 26.1% strikeout percentage for the month is still slightly concerning, it’s much closer to his career number of 20.8% than how his year began.
Also encouraging is that his patience seems to be back as his 17.4% walk percentage in August is even higher than the 11.1% for his career. And when Yelich is making contact, he is getting his money’s worth, which you can tell by his impressive 60% hard hit rate this month.
One can only hope that Yelich’s positive momentum can rub off on some of the team’s other new struggling hitters. Even with Yelich improving in August, Milwaukee has still scored three runs or less in 7 of 12 games in the month.
The Brewers will only go as far as their best player will take them. If Yelich is truly heating up, then it could lead to a much more optimistic prognosis for the season.