By JERRY TAPP
Can Christian Yelich repeat his 2018 season?
One of the most frequent questions you will hear throughout Miller Park during the early months of the 2019 MLB season is … Can Christian Yelich have another big season?
Yelich won the National League MVP last season with a .326 average, 36 home runs and 110 RBI. While reaching these numbers again this season might be asking for much, it does beg the question: Can Yelich, statistically speaking, match his 2018 output?
To answer that question, let’s take a journey over the last five seasons and see how the last five MVPs in each league did the year following their MVP season.
For the record, here are the MVPs for each league from 2013-17:
American League: Miguel Cabrera (2013), Mike Trout (2014), Josh Donaldson (2015), Mike Trout (2016) and Jose Altuve (2017).
National League: Andrew McCutchen (2013), Clayton Kershaw (2014), Bryce Harper (2015), Kris Bryant (2016), Giancarlo Stanton (2017).
As you can see, nine of the 10 MVPs prior to 2018 were everyday players (the only exception was Kershaw in 2014). To get a take on what has happened to previous MVPs and how it might answer the question about whether or not Yelich will match his 2018 MVP season, let’s see how the previous nine everyday MVPs did statistically when it comes to comparing the batting average, HR and RBI numbers from the MVP season to the following year.
Here’s what we find:
- Only three of the nine increased their season HR totals the year after the MVP season;
- All nine saw their RBI totals the season after their MVP campaign decrease the following season;
- Only two of the nine increased their season batting average the year after the MVP year.
Here’s another stat using these year-after-the-MVP numbers of the nine non-pitchers MVPs from 2013-17:
- Their season home run totals dropped by an average of 7.8 home runs from their MVP season to the following year;
- Their season RBI totals dropped by an average of 21.8 RBI from their MVP season to the following year;
- Their season batting average dropped by an average of 19.7 points from their MVP season to the following year.
If we apply the above numbers to Yelich’s totals from 2018 to project what he might do statistically (batting average, HRs and RBIs) in 2019, we would project Yelich to end 2019, the year after his MVP, with a .306 average with 28 home runs and 88 RBI. Again, this would be based on what we’ve seen from the past five MVPs in each year and what they did the year after their MVP campaign.
Those projected 2019 numbers would not be all that bad for Yelich, but certainly not where he ended the year in 2018. A World Series appearance for the Brewers in 2019 would certainly carry more weight than Yelich reaching his 2018 stats in 2019.
One more quick note: Looking at Clayton Kershaw’s MVP numbers the year after his MVP season, we see that in 2014 (the year Kershaw won the N.L. MVP) he had a 21-3 record with a 1.77 ERA and a WHIP of 0.857. Using those stats as a comparison, Kershaw dropped in each category the year after his MVP; in 2015 Kershaw had a 16-7 record, a 2.13 ERA, and a 0.881 WHIP. Very respectable numbers, but, again, he did not reach the numbers he had in his MVP season.
Will Yelich have a “successful” 2019 season? It all depends on how you want to define successful. History, however, may be telling us that Yelich may not reach the major stats he had in 2018. Are the Brew Crew faithful okay with that?
Follow Jerry on Twitter @StatsonTapp