Batting Second: LF Christian Yelich
Back in his customary second spot in the batting order is Christian Yelich. The Brewers signed him to a giant contract extension back in March, oh how long ago that seems right now.
Even though the 2020 season was a rough one for Yelich, hitting just .205/.356/.430 with a 30.8% strikeout rate. That was the highest strikeout rate, lowest batting average, and lowest OBP of his career.
Yelich had 12 homers on the year but only 22 RBIs, which goes back to the point of the lack of production from the leadoff position. There was no one on base ahead of Yelich for him to even bring around to score in 2020. The Yelich-Cain duo at the top of the order worked extremely well in 2018 and 2019 and it should do so again in 2021.
Yelich was watching a lot of pitches go by and wasn’t aggressive early in the count like he had been in 2018 and 2019. His swing percentage dropped and he got himself into a lot of bad counts.
For whatever reason, Yelich wasn’t himself in 2020, but he’s too good of a hitter for this to be expected going forward.
Despite all his struggles, Yelich’s .786 OPS is still better than most hitters and his 111 OPS+ was the worst of his career, and still 11% above a league average hitter. As Aaron Rodgers once said, “A down year for me is a career year for most”. While Rodgers was referring to quarterbacks, the same could go for Yelich and other hitters. So many guys end up with big contracts if they put up one season with a 111 OPS+.
The bottom line is, Yelich will be fine. He seems like the kind of guy who needs a crowd and needs to feel the energy of a stadium to perform to his highest levels and not having that in 2020 likely hurt him. By the time the season starts in 2021, there’s likely (hopefully) to be at least some fans allowed into the stadium even if it’s not 100% capacity. That should help Yelich and many others out.