The Milwaukee Brewers, most likely the playoff crew that everybody thought in regards to the least, bit the mud yesterday in a style befitting a crew that the majority didn’t notice had been even there. They scored six runs throughout 4 video games, obtained shutout twice, and whereas perhaps not fairly a whimper because of the dramatic Sport 4, it was definitely whimper-adjacent.
The Brewers obtained greater than sufficient pitching, which had been their M.O. all season. Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff, Freddy Peralta, and ultimately Adrian Houser shaped nearly the perfect rotation within the Nationwide League. It’s why they cruised to the division title despite the fact that their offense was mainly Suck Balls Mountain, a minimum of for a playoff crew.
Which is a bizarre factor to say a few crew that has a former MVP in its lineup, and the massive query for the Brewers heading into the winter is simply what’s occurred to Christian Yelich?
Yelich was truly having a greater season in 2019 than his MVP 2018 marketing campaign. Then he busted his kneecap with a few month to go, and nothing has been the identical since. The season-in-a-can of 2020 was far beneath his earlier two in Milwaukee, however might be dismissed as simply a type of bizarre ones because of the distinctive circumstances.
However this one was even worse, as Yelich slashed .248/.362/.373 for a positively common 101 wRC+. Yelich had an enormous August after getting back from a optimistic COVID check, and Brewers followers might need begun to dream he’d shut with a flourish. As a substitute he splattered on the pavement with a .305 slugging share in September, and capped it off by going 3-for-17 (all singles) within the Division Sequence.
So what’s occurring with him?
Final season, Yelich nearly stopped swinging at every little thing. His stroll charge (13.8 % to 18.6) and strikeout charge (20.3 to 30.8) each went up as he simply watched pitches go by him and hoped for the perfect. Which might clarify a good potion of that mess. However this yr, Yelich’s swing charge was again proper on his profession norm of 41.6 %. In reality, his chase-rates on each type of pitch had been the bottom of his profession, per BaseballSavant.com. No matter the issue this yr, it didn’t have a lot to do with plate-discipline.
And but Yelich simply misplaced the flexibility to hit the ball laborious. His common exit-velocity dropped to 91.7 MPH, three MPH decrease than even 2020, and this was in a season the place the brand new baseball noticed most everybody’s common exit-velocity go up. In order that three MPH drop performs greater than it seems to be. Even on pitches middle-middle that he used to show into mush as lately as 2019 (100.5 common exit velocity), he couldn’t do all that a lot with this yr (94.0 MPH).
Worse but, no matter laborious contact Yelich was making, or contact in any respect, was going straight into the bottom. Yelich’s ground-ball charge has gone from 43.2 % in 2019 to 50 % final yr to 54.4 % in 2021. This may not be the catastrophe it seems to be like, or a minimum of not as a lot of 1, as in his MVP yr he had a ground-ball charge over 50 % as properly, with a mean launch angle of simply 5 % (boy, what the fuck occurred that season?). However he made his airborne contact depend, and perhaps obtained a bit of luck (.373 BABIP in 2018). Yelich has at all times run a crazy-high BABIP even when he was a Marlin, partly resulting from having plus-speed. However that’s going to be much less and fewer of his sport as he strikes into his 30s, which he does beginning subsequent yr.
And even when he was getting balls into the air, he noticed an enormous drop in what number of of them left the park. The earlier three seasons, 30+ % of Yelich’s fly-balls went for homers. This yr that determine was 12. And contemplating the bounce in how laborious he’s hitting the ball now, that’s not a fluke. Yelich carried the most effective barrel-rates in 2018 and 2019, however noticed that determine fall this yr to lower than half of his 2019 charge (7.6 % to fifteen.8 two years in the past). He’s simply merely not hitting the ball very laborious.
Yelich battled again issues early within the season, and perhaps they lingered all season. As everybody on the planet will inform you nonetheless, again issues don’t are likely to get higher in your 30s. The drop in violence on contact would possibly recommend a dip in bat-speed, although Yelich has solely seen a slight rise within the variety of fastballs he whiffs on from his prime years. However he was extra simply overwhelmed up within the zone this yr on fastballs, based on BrooksBaseball.web, which might be one other signal that he simply can’t get there the way in which he used to.
The Brewers desperately want offense, as a result of they’ll at all times be in rivalry so long as that rotation is unbroken, which it must be, as all these starters are below crew management for years. Kolten Wong can be again at second, Willy Adames at brief. They might want to search out assist in middle and switch Lorenzo Cain right into a bench participant, as a result of his splits this yr don’t recommend he generally is a platoon. They need to be throughout Freddie Freeman, and/or bounce Josh Hader’s needy-ass for no matter hitting they’ll get (the Blue Jays really feel like a primary candidate to overpay for Hader in my head).
However signing free brokers isn’t a given, with Yelich being owed $26 million a yr till the Earth collapses on itself. The Crew can definitely go above the $114 million they’ve locked in for subsequent yr, however how a lot they’re keen to is one other query. And if that is all they’re getting from Yelich, they’re going to must work round that for practically one other decade.
The Brewers higher hope an offseason of relaxation is all Yelich wants, as a result of this man swinging foolish putty on the plate goes to be a difficulty going ahead.