Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

MLB News

Yelich shies from MVP talk, but stats say it all

In thick of playoff chase, Brewers star pacing NL in numerous traditional, advanced categories
MLB.com @AdamMcCalvy

MILWAUKEE -- It sounds simple, selecting a winner of the Most Valuable Player Award. Often, it's not. This year in the National League, it is particularly not.

For voting members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, the first step is deciding which of the abundant criteria matter most. If you want home runs, the Cardinals' Matt Carpenter is your man. If getting on base is the most important thing, maybe it's the D-backs' Paul Goldschmidt. Power and defense, the Rockies' Nolan Arenado. If you want the best player from the best team, or the RBI leader, or the most total bases, or an elite hitter who's also a fantastic and versatile defender on the infield, the Cubs' Javier Baez is looking very good. If you're open to a pitcher, the Mets' Jacob deGrom merits a look.

MILWAUKEE -- It sounds simple, selecting a winner of the Most Valuable Player Award. Often, it's not. This year in the National League, it is particularly not.

For voting members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, the first step is deciding which of the abundant criteria matter most. If you want home runs, the Cardinals' Matt Carpenter is your man. If getting on base is the most important thing, maybe it's the D-backs' Paul Goldschmidt. Power and defense, the Rockies' Nolan Arenado. If you want the best player from the best team, or the RBI leader, or the most total bases, or an elite hitter who's also a fantastic and versatile defender on the infield, the Cubs' Javier Baez is looking very good. If you're open to a pitcher, the Mets' Jacob deGrom merits a look.

If you think the best way to sort this out is wins above replacement -- the albeit imperfect metric that attempts to combine all of those stats into one -- the Brewers' Christian Yelich has risen to the top of the Fangraphs leaderboard. Not your preferred advanced metric? In that case, there is weighted runs created plus, weighted on-base average or park-adjusted OPS. Yelich, Yelich and Yelich.

Not ready for advanced metrics?

Batting average: Yelich.

On-base plus slugging: Yelich.

Slugging percentage: Yelich.

"He's doing special things," said Brewers manager Craig Counsell of his own player. "This is what guys in this conversation do."

National League stat leaders

Video: Yelich makes history with 2nd cycle of '18 vs. Reds

The special thing in this context came last Monday, when Yelich hit for the cycle against the Reds for the second time in less than three weeks. He's the fifth player in Major League history to hit for the cycle twice in one season, and the first to do it twice against the same team.

These players hit multiple cycles in their careers

And if you consider the cycle a mere novelty, consider that Yelich's came as he was putting together the best second half in the NL. Yelich leads the league since the All-Star break in average, home runs, extra-base hits, RBIs, slugging percentage, OPS, fWAR, wOBA and wRC+.

"The most important thing for him is that we're winning ballgames, but for us, it's fun to watch what he's doing every single night," said Mike Moustakas, who joined the Brewers before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. "We're lucky to have a front-row seat to it."

Video: Rose, Millar on the importance of Yelich to Brewers

Yelich, a 26-year-old, laid-back Southern Californian, has shied away from attention. He has a hard time putting into words a second half in which he's hit as many home run (21) as his previous career high for an entire Major League season.

Moving from cavernous Marlins Park to Miller Park certainly helped, but that cannot explain all of it. Yelich said he has made no conscious changes to his swing in an effort to join baseball's fly-ball revolution, saying his improved power is the result of experience over his parts of five years with the Marlins before last winter's trade to Milwaukee.

"Honestly, not really," said Yelich, when asked if he could articulate what his huge second half has meant to him. "It's hard to explain. It's one of those things where I haven't paid much attention to it, just because you're so focused on the day-to-day [process] of competing, focused on what you have to do to help the team win. We've been in a close race for the whole season, and every game has been big for us.

"It's something that, after the year is done, you might look back on it and appreciate it a little more. It's really hard to look at it while you're in the middle of it, if that makes sense."

Video: Yelich boosts Brewers with all of his 5 tools

For many, the race has come down to Baez vs. Yelich with one week of regular-season games remaining. Here's where that duo stands head-to-head in key categories, with NL ranks among batting title qualifiers as of Monday in parentheses:

Fangraphs WAR
Yelich 6.6 (first)
Baez 5.4 (tied for third)

Baseball-Reference WAR
Yelich 6.4 (sixth)
Baez 6.1 (seventh)

Defensive WAR
Baez 1.5 (ninth)
Yelich -0.6 (tied for 46th)

Baserunning runs above average
Yelich 5.5 (fourth)
Baez 3.8 (12th)

wRC+
Yelich 158 (first)
Baez 134 (tied for eighth)

wOBA
Yelich .410 (first)
Baez .372 (12th)

Adjusted OPS (OPS+)
Yelich 156 (first)
Baez 130 (tied for 11th)

OPS
Yelich .968 (first)
Baez .896 (fifth)

Batting average
Yelich .322 (first)
Baez .293 (tied for 12th)

On-base percentage
Yelich .391 (tied for fifth)
Baez .328 (tied for 42nd)

Home runs
Baez 34 (tied for second)
Yelich 32 (tied for ninth)

RBIs
Baez 110 (first)
Yelich 96 (tied for seventh)

Stolen bases
Baez 21 (tied for 11th)
Yelich 21 (tied for 11th)

"For Christian, what's cool this year is that he has taken his game to a new level," Counsell said. "He's been a player, a really good player, and he's taken it to the next level. As much as anything, it's a product of the sweet spot of some experience in the league lining up in the good spot. I think if you ask him, he'll say, 'I didn't have a good first half.'"

But Yelich was an NL All-Star.

"These guys compete against themselves, too," Counsell said.

Counsell was asked which statistics he favors in the NL MVP Award debate.

"Next," he said, playfully waving the question away. "I'm not into that. The guys everybody is talking about are the right guys. You guys vote for it, so you guys can figure it out."

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.

Milwaukee Brewers, Christian Yelich