After two consecutive seasons as a superstar in Milwaukee, Christian Yelich finally seems to have made it into a slump. An unfortunate knee injury might have cost him his second MVP last season, but he still nabbed the batting title. A hot start really helped him start last season off on the right foot. He had three homers and four hits in his first three games of 2019. When you compare that to his four hits in his first nine games this season, we can see the problem. Another jaw-dropping stat is the fact that Yelich has 17 strikeouts in his first nine games. How many games did it take him to get to that number last year? Twenty-four.
Yelich is definitely slumping, but I hope to see him break out soon. At the time this is being written, he is batting .111, which would obviously be a career low. Let’s find out why Yelich is going through a rough patch and see what he can do to fix it.
Not a Clueless Hitter
We know just how good of a hitter Christian Yelich can be. He has posted a .300 average three different seasons in his seven-season career. A Christian Yelich slump is not even as normal as you would expect. Normally when elite hitters go into a little bit of a rough patch, it is because of an elevated chase percentage. They are swinging at pitches they shouldn’t be, and it is leading to them falling behind in counts or even striking out a lot more often. They look clueless up there and it really takes them to lessen their aggressiveness and wait for their pitch. Although the three-time silver slugger winner is striking out more often, it is because of his LACK of aggressiveness.
Hitters often need at least a little aggressiveness to have some success. Hitters are okay striking out sometimes if they can get some of the results that they want. Yelich almost seems afraid to strikeout, and it is making him do it more often because he is taking too many pitches. He has a chase rate of 17.3% so far this season. That is low compared to his MVP 2018 and All-Star 2019, which were 24.9% and 27.9%, respectively. (Stats according to Statcast) That stat alone helps prove the exact point, when Yelich is more aggressive and swinging at more pitches, he is one of the best hitters in baseball. The more selective he gets, the more passive his at-bats are.
You may be thinking, isn’t taking pitches out of the zone a good thing? Mike Trout hasn’t had a chase percentage above 19% since his second MLB season. But the reason Yelich is struggling so much is because he isn’t just chasing less, he is swinging less in general. This Christian Yelich slump has seen his first pitch swing percentage drop from 60 percent in his MVP season down to a mere 44 percent so far in this 2020 season. When the two-time batting champ does swing however, he is whiffing, a lot. His 40 percent whiff percentage is the highest of his career by far.
How does Yelich Improve now?
What does Yelich need to do to get back to his MVP form? For a start, he needs to swing his bat more and be more aggressive. The Brewers outfielder is an unbelievably balanced hitter, with a super unique blend of contact and power. If he can start swinging at strikes early in counts, he will fall behind less often, which will give him more and more good pitches to hit. In his career, Yelich has seen great pitches to hit, or “meatballs” on 6 percent of his at bats. This season pitchers are trying to avoid him and have only given him meatballs on 2.5% of at-bats.
However, if Yelich starts to take control of at-bats and forces pitchers to throw strikes, he will instantly see more success at the plate. The Brewers need success badly from Yelich, and if he can’t start to make contact at a more effective rate, while also hitting early in the count, then this will be a full season of a Christian Yelich slump.
Also check out my last article on Jose Reyes