It’s not easy to win an MVP in any sport, and it’s even more difficult to win multiple awards. Brewers OF Christian Yelich appeared to be on track to win his second straight National League MVP award in 2019. A late-season injury that caused him to miss time ultimately hurt his chances to repeat, and he finished second in the voting to the Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger. Now that he has had the entire offseason to recover from his knee injury, expect Yelich to return to his MVP form, and don’t be surprised if he is in the MVP conversation for a third straight season as we get into September.
Christian Yelich’s MVP season in 2018
The Brewers traded for Yelich before the 2018 season, and the acquisition paid off immediately as he had what was, at the time, a career year. He hit .326 that season — 26 points higher than his previous career-high and the highest average among NL hitters — with 36 home runs and 110 RBIs.
He stole 22 bases and had a 1.000 OPS, with a 7.6 WAR, which was the highest among all position players in Major League Baseball. His 343 total bases were the most in the NL. In addition to winning a Silver Slugger award, Yelich won the NL MVP, getting 29 of a possible 30 first-place votes.
Yelich makes another MVP chase in 2019
Christian Yelich appeared to be on pace for another MVP run last season. He actually had a better season in many respects, but he played in just 130 games.
His season ended on September 10 when he suffered a knee injury. Before the premature end to his season, Yelich hit an NL-best .329 with 44 home runs and 97 RBIs. He swiped 30 bases, making him the 13th 40/30 hitter in MLB history, and he increased his OPS to 1.100, the best in the majors. Yelich’s WAR dropped a bit but still put him third in the National League at 7.1. He won another Silver Slugger last year and nearly missed out on another MVP award.
He got 10 first-place votes, but he lost out on the award to Bellinger, who got 45 more points in the voting than Yelich did. If Yelich finished out the season and not miss the Brewers’ last 18 games, more voters may have voted for him, and he could have received enough points to win the award again.
Another MVP run in 2020?
After putting up two strong seasons in a row, there’s no reason to expect that Yelich — who is still in his prime at 28 — will slow down much in 2020, so he has a legitimate chance to make another run at the MVP this season.
Last season, he even adjusted to pitchers throwing out of the zone to him — only Mets rookie Pete Alonso saw a lower percentage of pitches in the strike zone than Yelich — and still smashed more than 40 home runs. If his knee injury doesn’t linger, there’s no reason to think that Yelich can’t compete for the MVP again — and he may even have a shot at hitting for the Triple Crown.
Digging into some advanced metrics, Yelich had the fifth-highest average exit velocity last season, and with an optimal launch angle of 4.7 degrees, more of his hits — especially line drives — turn into home runs than would for other players. The biggest knock against Yelich is probably the team around him. Other than Ryan Braun, who is on the downside of his career at 36, the Brewers don’t have many offensive stars to provide support for Christian Yelich behind him in the lineup.