Brewers: The Case For Christian Yelich Batting Leadoff
By Tyler Koerth
Throughout baseball there are typical traits that teams look for in a leadoff hitter. Speed, bat to ball skills, on base percentage, enough power to keep opposing pitchers honest, and many more. Some players possess a blend of these traits that makes them an ideal leadoff hitter. In this article, we are going to take a look at the case for Christian Yelich to bat leadoff for the Brewers.
This topic came to fruition due to manager Craig Counsell inserting him in that spot during the second game of a double header on Tuesday night. This was Yelich’s first game at leadoff since the 2018 season. He assumed that role on 19 different occasions in 2018.
Kolton Wong has been this year’s leadoff hitter for the Brewers, when healthy. He has a .281 batting average and .337 on base percentage. His eight home runs are a respectable amount. He typically has found success swinging at the first pitch of an at bat with a 27.5 first pitch swing percentage.
Here is the case for the Milwaukee Brewers to bat Christian Yelich in the leadoff spot in the lineup, at least temporarily.
Just a few years ago, 2018 and 2019 to be exact, Christian Yelich was arguably the best player in baseball. He won back-to-back batting titles and nearly won back to back MVPs. Unfortunately, a fractured patella ended his 2019 season prematurely and he has not looked like the same player since. Of course the shut down, condensed season, and multiple other factors during the 2020 season certainly contributed to his lackluster play as well.
In 2021, Yelich is yet to find his power stroke. With just six home runs and and .360 slugging percentage, you have to wonder what on earth is going on. One positive however, is that he is getting on base as his on base percentage is .379.
One very notable difference is how unaggressive Yelich has been at the plate, especially early in counts. In 2018 and 2019, he swung at the first pitch nearly 30% of the time. In 2020 this number decreased to 13.4% and 21.8% in 2021.
Overall, Yelich is swinging a lot less as well. His 2020 swing percentage was 34% and it is 38.5% this season. During the 2018 season he swung the bat 44% of the time and 45% in 2019. This certainly correlates with the fact that he is drawing a lot more walks, which has been his biggest strength the past two seasons.
Given all of this, how would inserting Yelich as the leadoff hitter more often help? The theory is to help restore his aggression at the plate.
As the Brewers predominant 2nd or 3rd hitter, teams are still pitching Yelich carefully. Although he has not crushed many mistake pitches for home runs like years previous, teams are rather willing to try and make him chase pitches at the plate. Thankfully he has realized this and is one of the best at laying off pitches outside of the zone.
Should Yelich bat leadoff, teams may alter their approach and throw more strikes against him. The last thing opposing pitchers would want to do is allow a leadoff walk to Yelich and give him free reign on the base paths. In theory, this means he should be swinging more often.
In the end, the ultimate goal here is to give Yelich more opportunities to swing the bat in a more favorable situation. Batting leadoff would allow for this, especially with hot bats like Willy Adames and Eduardo Escobar hitting behind him as protection.
Even if it would just be for a short period of time, to get him going would be a huge boost for a team that looks play off bound.