Christian Yelich And Cody Bellinger Have Gotten Their Grooves Again

Christian Yelich And Cody Bellinger Have Gotten Their Grooves Back

They as soon as represented the ruling class amongst Nationwide League place gamers. The Brewers’ Christian Yelich gained the NL MVP Award in 2018, and completed 2nd behind then-Dodger Cody Bellinger in 2019. Each have been nonetheless of their twenties and appeared poised for a long term among the many sport’s elite.

Then some stuff occurred. Yelich fractured his kneecap close to the top of the 2019 season, and signed a seven-year $188.5 million contract extension the following spring that locked him up by the 2028 season. He struggled to seek out his energy stroke in 2021-22, hitting barely half as many homers (23) as he did in 2019 alone.

Bellinger took it 12 months by 12 months with the Dodgers, completely dropping his hitting stroke in 2021, rebounding solely barely in 2022 earlier than signing with the Cubs final offseason after being non-tendered by his earlier membership.

Coming into this season, Yelich was seen by many as little greater than an albatross contract, whereas Bellinger was principally a Cubs’ lottery ticket. And right here we’re in late August, with each gamers rating among the many NL’s high 10 in Fangraphs WAR (Bellinger at 4.0, Yelich at 3.9).

Let’s dig a little bit deeper into the batted ball profiles of each gamers to see in the event that they assist their mainstream numbers after which try and venture their respective future profession arcs.


A few years in the past I used to be writing for Fangraphs, and I predicted that Yelich was a possible future MVP. This, although he had by no means even hit 10 homers in a season at that stage of his profession. I reasoned that as a result of he scalded the ball so laborious throughout all batted ball varieties, regardless of carrying one of many lowest grounder charges within the sport, he may turn out to be elite with solely a modest enhance in his potential to raise the baseball.

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And that’s precisely what occurred. His common launch angle was extremely solely 4.6 levels in 2018, his MVP season. He was arguably even higher in 2019, when he completed 2nd to Bellinger. Yelich reached his profession excessive in each homers and common launch angle (11.2 levels) that season. He was completely deadly earlier than his September damage – my batted ball-based analysis technique positioned him forward of the younger Dodger.

He merely wasn’t the identical after the damage, in keeping with each the numbers and the attention check. Let’s give attention to the latter for a second. Yelich misplaced his base, and with it his improved potential to raise the ball. He was off stability very often, and it impacted his potential to make constant contact. His Ok price mushroomed, and he was little greater than a mean participant in 2021-22, far off his peak.

The 2023 model of Christian Yelich just isn’t an internal circle MVP candidate, what with the years Ronald Acuna Jr., Freddie Freeman and others are having. He’s, nevertheless, worthy of a decrease spot on an MVP poll.

He has basically turned again the clock and as soon as once more turn out to be the Marlins’ model of Yelich from his pre-MVP days. His common exit pace of 92.2 mph is his highest since 2020. Each his common liner (97.4 mph) and grounder (89.9 mph) exit speeds are over a full commonplace deviation larger than league common. His 93.3 mph common fly ball exit pace is over one-half commonplace deviation larger. His 20.0% Ok and 11.5% BB charges are his greatest since 2018. Oh, and his common launch angle of 4.6 levels is precisely the identical because it was in that very same MVP season.

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Yelich is now 31 years outdated, and his contract not seems to be like an issue for the Brewers. He has that very same younger participant talent set that after had me seeing stars – he has no less than a puncher’s likelihood of constructing the slight changes essential to as soon as once more turn out to be a 30+ homer man and MVP candidate.


Bellinger’s path to MVP standing was a little bit extra typical than Yelich’s. He confirmed up on the scene as a 21-year-old in 2017, a power-before-hit man with an uppercut stroke and a reasonably excessive Ok price. Over the following couple of seasons he leveled out his stroke a bit with out sacrificing any energy and sharply decreased his Ok price as an added bonus. It was an ideal storm, leading to a 47-homer onslaught in his MVP season.

He wasn’t fairly the identical cat within the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, however it’s important to give him – and plenty of others – a mulligan for that. His Ok and BB charges remained strong, however all of his batted ball numbers drifted downward into the typical vary. The Dodgers gained all of it, and Bellinger did contribute three homers throughout their postseason run.

Then 2021 occurred, and it appeared like Bellinger had completely forgotten the best way to successful a baseball. His .165-.240-.302 line over 350 plate appearances evoked Chris Davis on the backside. And about the one optimistic factor that may be mentioned about his 2022 season is that he stayed wholesome. His 27.6% Ok and 6.9% BB charges have been by far the worst he had ever recorded in a full season.

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It was this model of Bellinger that the Cubs supplied a one-year, $17.5 million assure final offseason. And if the uncooked numbers – .322-.370-.556 by Monday’s video games – are to believed, he’s worthy of placement someplace on voters’ NL MVP ballots.

The batted ball knowledge sees it a little bit bit otherwise. There’s actually no different option to put it – Cody Bellinger is the one luckiest hitter on balls in play within the main leagues this season. He’s batting .360 AVG-.930 SLG within the air, however “needs to be” hitting .291 AVG-.685 SLG. That’s a 117 Unadjusted vs. 69 Adjusted Fly Ball Contact Rating. On liners, its 116 Unadjusted vs. 95 Adjusted, and on grounders, 177 vs. 74. General, he has a 137 Unadjusted vs. an 85 Unadjusted Contact Rating. Bellinger “needs to be” hitting .253-.308-.417, means under his precise numbers.

His 87.2 mph common exit pace is by far a profession low. So are his common fly ball (88.6 mph) and liner (91.4 mph) exit speeds. His 83.2 mph common grounder exit pace is healthier solely than his 2017 mark.

So that you may suppose that I’m not shopping for Bellinger’s comeback season. Not fairly.

It’s an enormous deal to go from completely misplaced to again within the sport on the MLB stage. It’s a good greater deal to go from a 27.6% to a 15.3% Ok price in a single season. He has as soon as once more discovered his footing as a hitter on the MLB stage and may construct from there. Shifting ahead, if he trades a little bit of contact for some elevated energy, Bellinger can proceed to maneuver upward. Plus, the offense he’s at present offering isn’t half dangerous contemplating his place’s place on the defensive spectrum. Plus, he’s solely 27 years outdated. I can’t envision a full return to his MVP kind, however an All Star? Positive.

Baseball is a humbling sport, and hitting is more durable than it’s ever been. Whereas Christian Yelich and Cody Bellinger haven’t precisely seen their careers go as deliberate after profitable MVP awards, they’re nonetheless in there preventing, and for the primary time shortly, each of their respective arrows are pointing upward.

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