Yelich crowned MVP in first year with Crew
Brewers right fielder wins with 29 of 30 first-place votes
MILWAUKEE -- After "a tough few days" for the Southern California community he calls home, Christian Yelich, his family and some famous friends had something to celebrate on Thursday.
Yelich was a near-unanimous choice for the 2018 National League MVP Award, getting 29 of 30 first-place votes from the Baseball Writers' Association of America to win in a landslide over runner-up Javier Baez of the Cubs and third-place finisher Nolan Arenado of the Rockies.
:: NL Most Valuable Player voting totals ::
"It's an incredible feeling," Yelich said. "Kind of mind-boggling."
A welcome lift, too. Yelich spoke from the same veranda on which he'd filmed a helicopter only days earlier draw water from a lake to fight the deadly wildfires around Yelich's Malibu home, which was subject to a mandatory evacuation but escaped damage. Before that, the area was stunned by a deadly mass shooting at a bar in Thousand Oaks, just up the road from where Yelich attended high school.
To honor first responders to both tragedies, Yelich wore a Los Angeles Fire Department cap during Thursday's televised MVP Awards show on MLB Network.
"It was nice to see some smiles on some peoples' faces after the tough week that this area had," Yelich said. "A lot of my buddies who were here were in their backyards trying to keep their houses standing. It was a tough week for a lot of people out there."
The other first-place vote went to Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom, who finished fifth in MVP balloting a day after winning the NL Cy Young Award. But Yelich's margin over Baez was so wide -- 415 points to 250 points -- that it didn't matter.
Two BBWAA members in each of the 15 NL cities cast ballots before the start of the postseason, on which they ranked 10 players. The system awarded 14 points for a first-place vote, nine for second, eight for third and so on to 10th place. Brewers teammate Lorenzo Cain finished seventh and appeared as high as third on one ballot. Jesus Aguilar also garnered a handful of votes.
"If I knew that was going to happen," Yelich said of his winning margin, "I would have been a lot less nervous than I actually was. I was pretty nervous going into it. It's a huge honor. This season has been a crazy ride, it really has. To culminate with that, it's really hard to put into words right now, but I'm really appreciative of it."
The ride began in Miami, where Yelich played his first six Major League seasons before a blockbuster trade in January sent him to Milwaukee for four premium prospects. Yelich, entering his prime at age 26 and suddenly playing in a ballpark particularly friendly to left-handed hitters, made the most of the move, becoming the first player to win a league MVP honor the season after he was traded since Josh Donaldson of the Blue Jays in 2015.
It had happened to only one NL player: Braves third baseman Bob Elliott in 1947.
Speaking of history, it was the fifth league MVP Award in the Brewers' 50 seasons as a franchise. Ryan Braun, who was at Yelich's side for Thursday's televised awards show, won the NL honor in 2011, and Robin Yount (1982 and '89) and Rollie Fingers ('81) won it when the Brewers were in the American League.
• Previous NL MVP winners | More awards coverage
"This is unbelievable, and to be able to share it with all of these people who have been around a long time and had a positive influence on my life, it's really special," Yelich said. "I told them this moment is as much about them as it is for myself. We can all share it together."
Besides Braun, Yelich's support crew included free agent Mike Moustakas and Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield, an offseason workout partner whose bye week came at the perfect time.
Also present were Yelich's two brothers and their mother, Alecia, whom Christian credits for supporting his baseball ambitions from the start. On Wednesdays she would pick him up from high school and drive him to USC, where Christian played for an Area Code Games team run by, of all teams, the Brewers.
"People see the end product. They see you ending up in the big leagues," Yelich said. "But a lot of people don't realize the journey that goes into any player's career and life and getting to that point. A lot of the credit goes to your family.
"I think my family -- my mom, especially -- deserves a lot of credit."
But Yelich himself gets all the credit for the numbers he put up in his first year with the Brewers, including a finishing kick that turned a robust NL MVP debate into something of a foregone conclusion.
Yelich became the first Brewers player to win a batting title and finished two home runs and one RBI shy of what would have been the NL's first Triple Crown since St. Louis' Joe Medwick in 1937. Yelich batted .326 with 36 home runs and 110 RBIs, leading the NL in average, slugging percentage, OPS, weighted runs created plus, weighted on-base average and adjusted OPS while leading NL hitters in every version of wins above replacement.
It didn't take advanced stats to see him pull away from the pack beginning in July. Yelich hit more home runs in the second half (25) than he'd hit in any of his five seasons with the Marlins. His.770 slugging percentage after the All-Star break was baseball's best in 14 years, since Barry Bonds' .832 in 2004, and was 145 points better than the next-best finisher this year, Ronald Acuna Jr. of the Braves.
• Five amazing facts about your 2018 MVPs
Yelich did so much of that damage when it mattered most, as he slashed .370/.508/.804 from Sept. 1 to Oct. 1 while the Brewers closed a 5 1/2-game gap against Baez and the Cubs to win the NL Central.
"I think he was the best player in the National League this year," Arenado said before the Rockies and Brewers met in the NL Division Series, a three-game Milwaukee sweep. "You have to give him credit. He was unbelievable offensively, defensively and baserunning. He had an amazing year. He'd be my vote for MVP."
The baseball writers agreed.
"To think about where I was 12 months ago to now, it's hard to describe," Yelich said. "I would never have imagined this. I don't take this for granted."