What kind of things do writers and statisticians do in the offseason when they’re bored? They create projections of how players will perform in the upcoming season. And while these predictions don’t hold much weight, they’re fun to dissect, like when looking at 2021 projections for the Brewers.
That’s the beauty of sports, you never know how a team or player will perform. The player with the worst average last year could win the batting title the following season or the reigning Cy Young award winner could struggle to even retire a hitter. The only certainty is uncertainty.
Baseball Reference is one of the most reputable sources for information on all things baseball. While they keep track of statistics in the past, they also produce projections for the upcoming season. That will be the site we examine when determining whether these estimates are fair (seemingly realistic and accurate) or foul (faulty and flawed).
Today, we’ll be looking at the four main Brewers outfielders: Christian Yelich, Lorenzo Cain, Avisail Garcia, and Jackie Bradley Jr.
First up is Milwaukee’s 2018 National League Most Valuable Player, and a player who should have repeated in 2019. Do Baseball Reference’s projections appear to be on the money, or are they stingier than they should be?
Projection: .285/.387/.550, 34 HR, 86 RBI, 97 R
I think anybody that knows baseball expects Christian Yelich to bounce back this season. Last year was an anomaly for the former MVP but he’s back on the right track.
“I have a few ideas of what (went wrong). I don’t really want to get too into it or go too deep into why. I feel like I know and have a handle on it and some other people do as well, but it is what it is. You can’t change it. It happened,” Yelich said according to Andrew Wagner of the Wisconsin State Journal.
Looking at the numbers specifically, the .285 average is close to what he had in his last year in Miami where he had an average of .282. That next year with Milwaukee in 2018 he was the winner of the batting title, hitting a scalding .326.
Last year, Yelich was second on the team in home runs with 12 so his power never went anywhere. Baseball Reference also expects him to slug over .100 points better this year at .550 compared to the .430 clip last year.
A couple more interesting observations include about 150 less projected at-bats than when he won the MVP in 2018, which makes sense with the recent addition of Bradley Jr. And 20 stolen bases is what they have for Yelich coming off a year when he only had six attempts, being caught twice.
It’s impossible to confidently say he’ll get back to his 2019 form where he had a league-leading OPS of 1.100 and an OPS+ of 179, but feeling healthy and getting necessary work in at spring training paired with the normalcy of fans in the crowd and a supposed normal 162-game season seems like a solid remedy to a disappointing 2020 season.