I am sad. I am writing this Tuesday night, mere hours after the Brewers lost a gut punch game and a gut punch series to the Braves. If the Brewers were the better team, I would have been upset. But as I said before...I am not upset. Just sad. Very, very sad.
What I am so sad about is simply that the Brewers have some of the best pitching in baseball, and they are seemingly wasting it because their offense can’t hit. I know last week I said the Brewers should win this series in four and honestly, if they scored 4 runs a game, they sweep! But they didn’t because apparently hitting the ball is incredibly hard for them.
For the playoffs, the Brewers hit .192 and had an on base percentage of .263 and slugged only .264. They hit two home runs, the lowest number of any team in the division series. Their offense was abysmal. It likely means the end of hitting coach Andy Haines, though the hitting woes may not entirely be his fault. However, someone needs to take the fall for it and it won’t be any players, manager Craig Counsell, or the team’s president, David Stearns.
But what does concern me is the performance of two key players this season. Keston Hiura and Christian Yelich. Hiura had an historically poor season, getting demoted to Triple A twice and eventually being forgotten entirely. He was supposed to be the right handed power bat who brought balance to the lineup. Instead, he hit under .170 and struck out almost 40% of the time. I just don’t understand how someone goes from hitting .303 in 2019 to .212 to .168.
If the Brewers can figure out Keston Hiura (start with getting rid of his high leg kick), that would fill an important hole for next season and give them the right handed power bat they need, especially if the DH is activated in the NL like it should be next year. They need to hit for more power and he slugged .570 in 2019.
But that brings us to Christian Yelich, who is much more concerning. In 2018, Yelich won the MVP. In 2019, he was even better but finished second. In 2020, though, his average dropped .124 points. His slugging, which in simple terms measures how much power he is hitting with, dropped .241 points, which is an insane drop. Like, an impossibly large drop.
Then, in 2021, his slugging dropped even more. He went from slugging .671 in 2019 to just .373 in 2021. He also went from 44 homers in 2019 to just 9 in 2021. Nine. In 475 at bats. Just for reference, Manny Pina hit 13 in 208 at bats.
Quite simply, the Brewers won’t ever be good enough to make a World Series with this version of Christian Yelich. Considering his contract extension kicks in next year, and they will be paying him $26 million a season until 2029, he needs to return to his old form and do it quickly.
Teams need superstars to win in the postseason. The Braves have a superstar in Freddie Freeman and you saw what he did to us.
I have no idea what is wrong with Yelich. Is it his back? Did his broken kneecap create a change in his swing that he hasn’t rectified? Is he pulling a Tim Thomas and tanking after the guaranteed money shows up? (I doubt it...but the Tim Thomas reference was for Josh).
The clearest issue I can see is that he hit the ball on the ground 54.4% of the time this year, but only 43.2% of the time in 2019. His maximum exit velocity, hard hit percentage, and average exit velocity are all still high. The percentage of time he barrels the baseball (hits it on the sweet spot) is down almost 50% from 2019.
So basically he needs to hit the ball in the air more, which likely leads to hitting the ball on the barrel more, which likely leads to more power. Did I just solve Christian Yelich? Am I a great baseball coach? The greatest baseball coach maybe?
Ok, obviously that’s easier said than done. But that’s what needs to happen. The Brewers need their superstar back. Because without him, I’ll be sad a lot more often. And nobody wants sad Rob. Sad Rob eats a lot of Kwik Trip sandwiches. That’s not good for anybody.
Speaking of superstars, I was a superstar last week, getting 13 picks right. Thirteen! I’m still 15 out of 20, but we are talking about the now, not the then. Let’s go now! Let’s go now!
Finally, I know it’s Bear-Packer week and I totally ignored the game until now, but look, I know what’s going to happen. The Packers are going to win. Aaron Rodgers will make three absurd throws when the Bears are out of position in the secondary and I’ll be sad again.
My only hope is the Bears keep it close with the run game and Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn make the Packers pay for having backup tackles. It’s a fool’s hope, but my only hope none the less. My picks for the week are also likely foolish, but here they are anyway.
Picks: Bucs, Jaguars, Packers, Bengals, Colts, Rams, Chiefs, Panthers, Chargers, Cardinals, Broncos, Cowboys, Steelers, Bills.