In 2018, the Milwaukee Brewers’ Christian Yelich had a breakout season, winning the National League MVP award thanks to a slash line of .326/36/110. Some thought the outfielder couldn’t repeat those career-highs this season. We even stated Yelich couldn’t match his numbers from last season. Well, we were wrong. He’s having an even better offensive season in 2019. There’s one stat, in particular, that shows how ridiculously good Yelich is so far.
Homers and steals
Through the end of June, Yelich leads the NL with 29 home runs. He has 18 steals, which is second in the NL and just one behind Jarrod Dyson for the league lead. If Yelich ends up leading the NL in both homers and steals, he’d become the third player in MLB history to dominate both categories. The two times this has happened were in 1909 and 1932 by Hall of Famers.
In the first instance, the Tigers’ Ty Cobb led the American League with nine home runs and 76 stolen bases (the game was different back then). In 1932, the Phillies’ Chuck Klein topped the NL with 38 homers and 20 steals (more of the play we see today).
If Yelich — who’s on pace for 60-plus homers and nearly 40 steals — can pull it off, he’ll join their company and become the first player to lead his league in homers and steals in 87 years.
Making a case for a second straight MVP
Yelich is following up his MVP campaign by making a strong case for a repeat vote. In his first 76 games, he’s well ahead of last year’s pace with 29 home runs and 63 RBI. He’s also nearly matched last year’s stolen base total (22). Yelich is also hitting .327, and he has a 1.127 OPS, which is impressive compared to his 1.000 OPS from a season ago.
The outfielder’s WAR falls short compared to last year. In 2018, he had a 7.6 WAR and he’s at 4.3 so far this year. The Brewers are tied for the NL wild-card. And playing for a winning team often helps a player in MVP voting.
Home Run Derby left for Yelich to prove?
After winning the MVP last year and helping the Brewers get within a game of the World Series, there’s not much left for Yelich to prove. Other than actually getting the Brewers to their first World Series appearance since 1982, winning the Home Run Derby is essentially all that Yelich hasn’t accomplished so far in his career. But this may change soon.
MLB announced the first five players, including Yelich, who will compete in this year’s Home Run Derby. He is joined by veterans Josh Bell and Carlos Santana, along with rookie sluggers Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Pete Alonso. Three more contestants will be named, with $1 million awarded to the winner.