After two full seasons as the best hitter in the National League and one of the most clutch, Christian Yelich can’t come up in the big moment in 2020.
There’s a lot of weird things going on in 2020. From empty stadiums, to the DH being in the NL, to Christian Yelich not coming up in a big spot, this year has just been extremely weird. The weirdest of all, at least when it comes to Brewers-related things, has been Christian Yelich.
At any point in the last two years since Yelich arrived in Milwaukee, if he came up to the plate in a big spot, Brewers fans were excited, knowing that a big hit was right around the corner. After all, Yelich is the two-time reigning batting champion and has come up in the big spot so many times before. He’s had walk off doubles, walk off homers, big hits late in games, and has almost gotten the Barry Bonds treatment.
He was the most feared hitter in baseball, and in a big spot, there’s no one else anyone would want at the plate.
But this year, it’s just been different. Continually, Yelich has gotten at-bats in big moments late in games with runners on base and a chance to take the lead or tie, and Yelich has struck out or doesn’t make solid enough contact to have a positive impact. Some of those strikeouts were on, shall we say, questionable strike three calls, but the point still stands.
According to Fangraphs’ Clutch stat, Yelich has been a -0.91 in clutch situations this year, the lowest mark of his entire career.
Christian Yelich has not come through for the Brewers in big situations this year.
For comparison’s sake, last season, Yelich was at +0.49 in the clutch.
In terms of Situational Wins, Yelich is at 0.26 in 2020, which is also by far the lowest mark of his career. In 2018, he was at 5.92 situational wins, and had 7.02 situational wins in 2019. He led the league in Situational Wins in both 2018 and 2019
Yelich’s WPA (Win Probability Added) in 2018 was at 6.02 and then at 7.34 in 2019. This year, he’s at -0.64. Again, he was the league leader in WPA in 2018 and 2019.
Time and time again, we’ve seen pitches that Yelich normally crushes that he either swings right through or simply watches go by. He’s only swinging 35.6% of the time, a full 10% drop from last year. He’s also only making contact 67.5% of the time, the lowest number of his career and 10% below his career average.
Yelich typically sits around 20% for a strikeout rate. In 2020, he’s striking out 32% of the time.
Another interesting stat is Yelich’s low BABIP at just .267. For his career, Yelich has a .355 BABIP and the lowest number he’s had in a full season before was .336 in 2017. So Yelich is making less contact this year, and when he does make contact and put the ball in play, he still isn’t getting balls to fall through for base hits anywhere close to normal.
No matter which way you slice it, Yelich is not performing up to the incredibly high standards he set for himself. Perhaps not having fans to provide energy is messing with him mentally, perhaps a mini-slump spiralled into a mental mess, whatever it is, the weirdness of this 2020 season has affected Yelich.
The Brewers have needed Yelich to come through in big moments all season. He’s been in a large amount of them, but he just hasn’t gotten the job done. 2021 will be different. It has to be. Yelich is too good of a hitter for him to stay like this. He will bust out, but it just might not be soon enough to help the 2020 team.