Is Christian Yelich back? This isn't the first time the question has been asked. But will it be the last?
The Brewers have been waiting for the MVP version of Christian Yelich to show back up since 2020. He broke his kneecap towards the end of 2019 when he was seemingly headed toward a second straight MVP award. Milwaukee signed him to a massive long-term contract extension coming off that injury in spring training of 2020.
Ever since then, Yelich has been a shell of his former self. He struggled in the shortened 2020 season, but perhaps that could be written off because of the odd circumstances of the season. But then he struggled mightily in 2021 and still didn't round back into MVP form in 2022. Along the way he showed some flashes, but they were short lived.
During each of those flashes, we asked ourselves if Christian Yelich was back. Each time it turned out the answer was no.
But this time feels a little bit different than the others.
Is Christian Yelich really back to his MVP form for the Brewers?
Over his last seven games, Yelich is hitting an incredible .400/.464/.760 with three homers and 10 RBIs.
Over his last 15 games, Yelich is hitting .304./.381/.536 with four homers.
The numbers for the month of May are certainly excellent and are reminiscent of Yelich's 2018-19 hot stretch. Granted, that's two weeks of games and in the grand scheme of baseball that's not a large sample size, but it's growing into a trend.
In his MVP years, Yelich was hitting in the .320s. With the Marlins, Yelich was consistently in the .280-.290 range with his batting averages. The past three years, Yelich has hit .205, .248, and .252 respectively. With his hot month of May, he's now up to hitting .262 on the season.
It's still not quite where he was in his prime, but it's getting closer and closer. The other telling number is his slugging. That's truly what the Brewers have been missing. Yelich's slugging is up to .430 on the year now, matching his number from the shortened 2020 season and well above his slugging output in 2021 and 2022.
His launch angle has also been trending up. Yelich's average launch angle on breaking balls and offspeed pitches have jumped from April to May. His three home runs against the Royals were all 31 degrees or higher on the launch angle. He hit one off the scoreboard on Saturday and pulled a moonshot down the right field line on Sunday. Yelich pulled out the swagger too with the bat drop, which shows that he's feeling much better about himself at the plate right now.
In years prior and going through April, not being able to elevate the ball was Yelich's major problem. He's fixed that in May so far. He's hitting the ball hard and in the air, which leads to home runs.
He's at seven homers on the season now in the middle of May. He hit just nine in all of 2021 and only 14 last season. He's already halfway to beating last year's total.
There are certainly positive signs with Yelich's recent performance to believe that he's back into form. What we've seen from him over an extended stretch here looks a lot like the MVP version of Yelich that we knew was in there.
I'm not going to definitively declare Yelich is back quite yet, but if he keeps this hot streak going and pushes his batting average and slugging percentage higher and higher towards his previous levels, then we can declare him back. If he gets to hitting .280 or higher and gets that slugging back above .500, that's where I would feel comfortable declaring him back.
This looks like he's back for real, and it feels like it. Once again, time will tell. That feeling needs to last a little longer before we can know for sure.