Our Brewers season report card series continues, today we will be looking at Christian Yelich’s season.
For Christian Yelich and Milwaukee Brewers fans, everything had been sunshine and rainbows since Yelich joined the club prior to the start of the 2018 season. In his first two years, Yelich won back-to-back batting titles and one MVP award. His tremendous play ended up netting him a large nine year, $215 million contract extension early in the spring of 2020.
A mere few days after the contract extension was announced, the world shut down due to COVID-19. Yelich had just made his spring training debut and, like the rest of his teammates, was abruptly sent home to await when/if there would be a MLB season in 2020.
Upon arrival in summer camp, it was clear that Yelich was off. At that time, there were three main hypotheses regarding his early struggles: his timing was off, pitchers were ahead of the hitters, and everyone struggles when facing Brandon Woodruff multiple times.
Regardless of which factor contributed the most to Yelich’s early season struggles, it clearly impacted him as the short season started progressing. He ended up completely altering his approach at the plate, striking out a ton, and left many Brewer fans shaking their head as they tried to explain what caused his rough 2020 season.
Christian Yelich 2020 Season Grade: F
Yelich’s 2020 season grade will also go down as the worst season of his career as a major leaguer. To go from two-time batting average champ each of the last two seasons at .329 and .326 averages to .205 is a drastic drop nobody could have predicted.
His increase in strikeout percentage (30%) was also ten percentage points higher than his career average, so this was very unexpected as well.
When it became clear to Yelich that he was struggling to make contact, he altered his approach at the plate. In his first two season with the Milwaukee Brewers, Christian Yelich often did damage early in counts. In 2019, 21 of his 44 home runs came within the first two pitches of at bats.
In 2020, he hit just two home runs within the first two pitches of at bats and his first pitch swing percentage decreased to a career low 13%.
Two positive takeaways from Yelich’s 2020 season was that he did get on base via the walk a lot more than normal. This can mainly be attributed to him changing his approach at that plate of essentially swinging a lot less, but credit Yelich for trying to make adjustments.
The second positive takeaway is that he still hit the ball extremely hard. His 94 MPH exit velocity was a career best for him and the third highest exit velocity in MLB this season. In an analytical driven world, we can hold onto his ability to make loud contact and still hit a good amount of home runs (12 in 2020) to reasons why he will bounce back in 2021.
The Milwaukee Brewers playoff outlook for years to come depends upon Yelich playing a lot closer to his normal standards. The Brewers cannot afford any more “F” graded seasons from their superstar, so look for him to bounce back in 2021.