The Milwaukee Brewers, in all probability the playoff staff that everybody thought in regards to the least, bit the mud yesterday in a vogue befitting a staff that the majority didn’t understand have been even there. They scored six runs throughout 4 video games, received shutout twice, and whereas possibly not fairly a whimper due to the dramatic Sport 4, it was definitely whimper-adjacent.
The Brewers received greater than sufficient pitching, which had been their M.O. all season. Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff, Freddy Peralta, and finally Adrian Houser fashioned nearly the most effective rotation within the Nationwide League. It’s why they cruised to the division title though their offense was mainly Suck Balls Mountain, at the least for a playoff staff.
Which is a bizarre factor to say a few staff 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 under his earlier two in Milwaukee, however might be dismissed as simply a type of bizarre ones due to the distinctive circumstances.
However this one was even worse, as Yelich slashed .248/.362/.373 for a positively common 101 wRC+. Yelich had a giant August after getting back from a optimistic COVID check, and Brewers followers might need begun to dream he’d shut with a flourish. As an alternative he splattered on the pavement with a .305 slugging proportion in September, and capped it off by going 3-for-17 (all singles) within the Division Sequence.
So what’s happening with him?
Final season, Yelich nearly stopped swinging at every thing. His stroll fee (13.8 p.c to 18.6) and strikeout fee (20.3 to 30.8) each went up as he simply watched pitches go by him and hoped for the most effective. Which might clarify a good potion of that mess. However this yr, Yelich’s swing fee was again proper on his profession norm of 41.6 p.c. In actual fact, his chase-rates on each type of pitch have 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 power to hit the ball onerous. 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 appears to be like. Even on pitches middle-middle that he used to show into mush as not too long ago 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 onerous contact Yelich was making, or contact in any respect, was going straight into the bottom. Yelich’s ground-ball fee has gone from 43.2 p.c in 2019 to 50 p.c final yr to 54.4 p.c in 2021. This won’t be the catastrophe it appears to be like like, or at the least not as a lot of 1, as in his MVP yr he had a ground-ball fee over 50 p.c as nicely, with a mean launch angle of simply 5 p.c (boy, what the fuck occurred that season?). However he made his airborne contact depend, and possibly received somewhat luck (.373 BABIP in 2018). Yelich has all the time run a crazy-high BABIP even when he was a Marlin, partly on account of 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+ p.c of Yelich’s fly-balls went for homers. This yr that determine was 12. And contemplating the bounce in how onerous he’s hitting the ball now, that’s not a fluke. Yelich carried among the best barrel-rates in 2018 and 2019, however noticed that determine fall this yr to lower than half of his 2019 fee (7.6 p.c to fifteen.8 two years in the past). He’s simply merely not hitting the ball very onerous.
Yelich battled again issues early within the season, and possibly they lingered all season. As everybody on the planet will let you know nevertheless, 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 crushed up within the zone this yr on fastballs, based on BrooksBaseball.net, which might be one other signal that he simply can’t get there the best way he used to.
The Brewers desperately want offense, as a result of they’ll all the time be in rivalry so long as that rotation is undamaged, which it must be, as all these starters are underneath staff management for years. Kolten Wong will probably 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 could be 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 main 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 should work round that for almost 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 problem going ahead.