As we are quickly approaching the halfway point, we continue to watch in awe as Christian Yelich looks to be in line for a possible second consecutive NL MVP. The only person standing in his way is Dodger’s 1B/OF Cody Bellinger. Around this time last season Yelich was good…but not THIS good. It was after the All-Star break where he really struck a match and ran away with NL MVP honors. While regression was expected this season, he just has not slowed down. Trading Brinson and others for Yelich might go down as the best deal Stearns will make in his career. That being said, you have to wonder what Yelich would look like if he were still in Miami. There is no definite way, obviously, to tell what impact coaching and the environment have on his performance, but there are some other in-game aspects we can look at.
The first point is that Yelich changed divisions, and thus, has changed who he is facing more in terms of opposing pitchers. Here is the list of pitchers he faced most in his time in Miami:
Obviously, some of the better NL East pitchers show up on this list including Julio Teheran, Stephen Strasburg, Jacob DeGrom, and Max Scherzer. As a division from 2013-2017, NL East teams had an average xFIP of 3.97 including the Nationals who ranked 4th and Mets who ranked 7th during that timeframe. During that same time, NL Central teams had an average xFIP of 3.95 also with the Cubs and Cardinals ranking 5th and 6th respectively. In general, during that time the pitching quality was not too different. Lets fast forward now to 2018 when Yelich is now in Milwaukee. Below is the list of pitchers who Yelich has faced most since coming to Milwaukee:
A different group of names obviously. The top pitchers he is facing now most consistently in the division include Jack Flaherty, Jose Quintana, Kyle Hendricks, and Miles Mikolas. Its a nice trade-off considering the number of times he could be facing perennial CY Young contenders Max Scherzer and Jacob DeGrom. In the past season and a half, how does the pitcher quality compare? From 2018 to this point in time, the average xFIP of NL Central teams not including the Brewers is 4.24 compared to the 4.16 of the NL East teams not including the Marlins. Let’s now look at the division pitchers Yelich would have faced most if he were still a Marlin and how Yelich has done in his career against them:
Even against Cy Young winners/candidates in DeGrom and Scherzer, Yelich has shown success. Whether this success would keep up or not is a question that one can only project. As of his time on the Brewers facing these pitchers listed above, he has gone a combined .387 with 4 walks in 35 plate appearances. As we double those plate appearances, however, we might expect to see that average go down, but still putting up elite numbers against elite pitching. In fact, when referring to the figure showing the pitchers he has faced the most as a Brewer, he is actually doing worse against worse pitchers!
Another measurable factor is the stadium in which one plays. Besides the fact that the Brewers have fans who actually show up to the game, it is also a more hitter-friendly ballpark. Here is a look at a home run spray chart between the two stadiums:
There would only be one home run that would not have made it out of the park in Marlin’s Stadium. Too bad, Yelich would have had to settle for a deep double or triple off the wall. As a whole, his park-adjusted numbers are still incredible. The top show his Miller Park adjusted numbers and below are if he were in Marlins Stadium:
The stadium seems to have a negligible effect on what Yelich would have produced.
Another factor would be the rest of the team. Realmuto would have served as protection for the past couple of seasons in Miami, but the run-producing numbers overall may not have been as impressive compared to the Brewers who had a breakout Aguilar, Lo Cain, Mike Moustakas, and Ryan Braun. Regardless of the lineup, Yelich is a ballplayer and a damn good one. Again, we can only imagine what happened internally that flipped the switch for Yelich. He was always good, but who knows if he would have this incredible display of speed, power, and average if he were still in Miami.