Shepkowski: So Far, A Tale Of Two Christians

The stellar start to 2019 for Christian Yelich is drastically split.

Nick Shepkowski
April 25, 2019 - 9:30 am

(670 The Score) There are times you just have to admit you simply can’t explain something. 

Why you thought a long-distance relationship was ever a good idea, why you agreed to stay out for “just one more drink” with your long-lost buddy, or why you thought Kyle Schwarber was going to make a great lead-off hitter are all prime examples.  Looking back, you just can’t explain any of the logic.

Now 26 games into the season, Christian Yelich can’t be explained be me, or I’m guessing anyone else for that matter.

A quick look at his numbers make you think the reigning NL MVP is certainly bound for a second straight MVP award.  His 13 home runs and 31 RBI both lead all of baseball.  His 23 runs, .793 slugging and 1.231 OPS rank in the top three in all of baseball as well.  And his .438 on-base is good enough for eighth best in all of baseball.

He’s gone from being a very good ballplayer during his days in Miami to one of the absolute best since really the All-Star break of 2018.

Twenty-five of his 36 home runs last year came post All-Star break, while his on-base soared .085 higher in the second half and his OPS went up from a solid .823 pre-break, to a ridiculous 1.219 in the back half of 2018.  He was on a tear.

And a quick glance at his 2019 show he’s still on that tear.But what about away from Miller Park? That tells us an incredibly odd and different story.

In 11 road games this season Yelich is hitting all of .227.  His .306 on-base in road games is actually higher than his .273 slugging and his OPS of .579 away from Miller Park this year is 1.232 lower than his absurd 1.811 mark at home.

I honestly don’t know what to make of it. The Brewers have played a grand total of 11 road games to date, not exactly a noteworthy sample size.  A difference can be plenty expected, but the degree of difference we’ve seen from Yelich feels a bit insane.

Had it not been for Cody Bellinger robbing a would-be Yelich home run this past Sunday, Yelich would have 14 home runs total in 14 games at Miller Park.  He still has 13 in the same amount of time, which I don’t think anyone in Milwaukee will complain about, but the fact he hasn’t just struggled on the road is mind-blowing.

He’s Babe Ruth almost homering every home game, yet is at best a singles machine on the road.  Remember shortly ago how we mentioned him being a highlight catch away from averaging exactly a home run for home game played?  Now consider that with one more hit he would be averaging a hit a game away from home.  Of those 10 hits in 11 games, only two have gone for extra bases, both being doubles.

Is it sustainable? Probably not, for either the home or road numbers.

I feel safe in saying by the middle of May his OPS won’t still sit north of 1.800 at home while I have doubts it stays well-under .600 in road games. 

Dante Bichette started the 1995 season with his first 17 home runs coming at Coors Field.  Bichette would finish with 40, 29 in his home ballpark.  It was still in the home park’s favor, but water at least appeared to somewhat find it’s level.

The crazy part of Christian Yelich’s start to me isn’t that a guy that used to be as “very good” is now considered “one of the absolute best”, but that even in that, he’s off to a legendary start for 2019 in Miller Park (365 sOPS+*) and a significantly below-average player away from it (65 sOPS+).

I’m not expecting these extremes to stay anywhere near where they sit -- at least as long as Bernie Brewer isn’t stealing signs again.