Ever since a 2020 season that saw many players across the league have abnormally down seasons, one question has been weighing on the mind of Milwaukee Brewers fans.
When will Christian Yelich look like his old self again?
After winning an MVP during the 2018 season and then coming oh so close to repeating in 2019, the Brewers outfielder has looked little like one of the top players in all of MLB. Of course, a weird Covid season followed by lingering back issues certainly didn’t help matters.
Regardless of the reasons, Yelich’s numbers over the last two seasons looked nothing like ones a player of his caliber should have. From 2020 to 2021, he slashed a combined .234/.360/.392 with 21 home runs and 73 RBIs in 175 games and a strikeout rate of 26.2%. His fWAR over that time was 2.1, again, far lower than you would expect for a player like Yelich.
2022 brought high expectations for the Brewers as a whole. But in the minds of many, to reach those lofty goals, it would require one major thing: Christian Yelich brushing off two poor seasons and returning at least somewhat close to his former self.
Things didn’t start off half bad this season, with Yelich collecting hits in five of his first six games. Like the rest of the offense, though, he would slump somewhat after that, dropping his batting average to a season-low .192 on April 24th and having recorded a strikeout in every game but one up to that point.
Since that game, however, Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich has been looking much more like his old self.
In the 10 games since that day, Yelich is batting .324 with a 1.026 OPS and just seven strikeouts in 42 plate appearances. He has recorded hits in seven of those games while reaching base safely in nine of them.
The last two games for Yelich have been particularly impressive. Albeit they were against the lowly Reds pitching staff, but they saw him go 5-for-9 with a walk, six runs scored, two doubles, four RBIs, and seven batted ball events of over 100 miles per hour. He also hit this monster home run in his first at bat of Thursday’s game.
Through 25 games this season, Yelich is now slashing .247/.343/.449 with four homers and 16 RBIs, good for a 127 wRC+ and a 0.5 fWAR. He has a 12.4% walk rate to go along with a 24.8% strikeout rate. One of the best signs are that his barrel rate (20%), hard hit rate (58.5%), and average exit velocity (93 mph) all rank in MLB’s 95th percentile or better per Baseball Savant.
Most of these numbers actually compare quite similarly to the first 25 games of his 2018 MVP season. Though he is far off his .299 average he had through that period, he isn’t far off from that year’s OBP (.367), slugging (.454), strikeout rate (21.1%), and fWAR (0.6) and is actually that season’s homers (3), RBIs (11), walk rate (9.2%), and wRC+ (121).
It’s worth pointing out the quality of opponents Milwaukee has had this year as seven of the nine series the team has played so far (if you can count the one-gamer against the Giants a “series”) have been against teams currently under .500.
That trend technically continues with a three-team, nine-game road trip that begins today. Two of those series, though, are against the Marlins and the defending champion Braves, teams of a higher caliber than recent Brewers opponents despite their current records.
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It’s a small sample size and there is still plenty of season to go. But Brewers fans wanted to see a Christian Yelich that was like the one they experienced when he first got to Milwaukee, and recently, that’s largely what they’ve gotten.