Brewers: What to Make of Christian Yelich’s Start to the 2022 Season
By Josh Waldoch
Perhaps no player in baseball has more to prove than Brewers star outfielder Christian Yelich. Since signing the largest contract in franchise history, the last two seasons have looked nothing like the player he was when he first came to Milwaukee.
Although the season is young, that doesn’t mean we can’t check in to see how certain players have started off. So why not take a look at the numbers of the former MVP so far and see what they can show us, if anything.
Much of the success of the Brewers’ 2022 season will depend on Christian Yelich’s return to form after two seasons full of struggles.
Entering play on Monday, Yelich is slashing .200/.359/.300 with an OPS + of 91, two doubles, no home runs, and three runs scored. He also has drawn seven walks. Although his traditional numbers are not impressive, the newer metrics provided by StatCast show positive signs.
Starting with the good news, even in a very small sample size, Yelich is hitting the ball hard. He currently has a hard hit% in the top 1% of all batters at a whopping 75%. That is of course going to fall and will likely normalize somewhere around his career average of 48.8% but is still a positive takeaway.
That is not particularly surprising for Yelich, as he has consistently hit the ball hard over his career. The lowest Hard Hit% he recorded for a season was in 2015 when he recorded a 45.1%, which placed him in the 91st percentile.
As well as hitting the ball hard, one thing that continues to go well for Yelich is his eye. He has one of the lowest chase rates in all of baseball, currently sitting at 10.3. That will also likely normalize and rise up a bit, but the fact remains that he has only recorded 36 called strikes on the season.
Now for the not so good news. Although Yelich’s eye continues to be elite, he does continue to whiff at a high rate. So far, he has recorded 98 swinging strikes, 62% of all pitches he’s seen this season. Although when he hits the ball, he hits it hard, putting the ball in play continues to be a struggle.
Along with the high whiff% and high K%, Yelich has yet to homer. Homers in general have been elusive for the Brewers, who have the fewest in the National League (5) entering Monday. He continues to stay slotted in the third spot, though perhaps a move to leadoff until his power returns would be a good option.
Yelich has had some very close shots, including a ball that was only a foot or so short of a homer to dead center in the home opener on Thursday. However, the power that Yelich found upon coming to Milwaukee still has not returned.
Yelich does not have to be a 40-home run player to be a key contributor. But he needs to be able to put the ball in play in the air, and not produce continual rollovers to first base that generally result in outs.
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Overall, it is far too early in the season to pass judgment on not only Yelich, but any Brewer. There are positive signs though that can be seen starting to form in Christian Yelich’s game; hopefully those signs continue to develop, and Christian Yelich will return to his star form that he is capable of being.