Why Christian Yelich Should Still Win the NL MVP

2018 was a magical year for the Brewers. They were one win away from the World Series. The man behind that unbelievable run was Christian Yelich. Yelich won the 2018 NL MVP with 36 homers, 100 RBI, and a 1.000 OPS. This year, Yelich is having/had an even better campaign. The race for NL MVP this year between Yelich and Cody Bellinger has been a back and forth battle. Unfortunately, Yelich fouled a ball off of his kneecap recently, ending his season. After the news broke, the NL MVP was basically given to Bellinger, 20 games before the season ended. I would like to make the case the Yelich should still win the MVP, even if he will play fewer games.

In 2010, the AL MVP was given to Josh Hamilton of the Texas Rangers. Hamilton missed almost all of September, finishing with 133 games played. He hit .359 that year with 32 home runs and 100 RBI, and he still beat out Miguel Cabrera for the AL MVP. Cabrera had a similar OPS to Hamilton, played 20 more games than Hamilton, but still didn’t win the MVP.

From a statistical standpoint, the race between Hamilton and Cabrera is very comparable to the race between Yelich and Bellinger. Yelich finished with 130 games played, and 580 plate appearances, 78 more plate appearances than is required to qualify for the league lead in rate statistics. He hit 44 home runs, drove in 97 runs, stole 30 bases, and finished with an OPS of 1.100. Bellinger will finish around 46 home runs, 115 RBI, 15 steals, and an OPS of 1.030. The main argument for Bellinger is that his counting stats will be so much higher than those of Yelich. While true, the counting stats are still not far off. Hits, home runs, and WAR will be nearly identical for both. The only counting stats in which Bellinger has a large advantage is in runs scored and RBI, two stats that rely on a player’s teammates nearly as much as the player themselves. As far as the rate stats go, Yelich blows Bellinger out of the water. Yelich will finish with an average 25 points higher, (he might lead the league) an OBP 20 points higher, (he will lead the league) a slugging percentage 50 points higher, (he will lead the majors) and as a result, an OPS 70 points higher (he will lead the majors) in addition to stealing 15 more bases than Bellinger. The difference between this race and the one referred to earlier, is that Yelich’s rate stats are so much higher than Bellinger’s. Cabrera and Hamilton had very similar rate stats. Hamilton finished with an OPS just 2 points higher than Cabrera.

I have presented my case for Christian Yelich for 2019 NL MVP; his counting stats are close enough to Bellinger’s that his enormous advantage in rate stats should put him over Bellinger. Don’t try to bring up the fact that “BElLiNGeR’s tEaM WiLL fInISh hIgHeR” because that may seem true on the surface, but consider the following: without Yelich, the Brewers likely don’t even reach .500. Without Bellinger, the Dodgers still probably win the NL West. So, regarding the semantics of the award, Yelich is more valuable to the Brewers than Bellinger is to the Dodgers.

Photo: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel


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