While one extremely high-profile Wisconsin athlete and former league MVP has captured most of the February headlines by gathering his innermost thoughts and planning for his future via a “darkness retreat,” another face-of-the-franchise from our state went about a similar soul-searching process in a very dissimilar fashion. Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich, bound and determined to rinse the taste of a very pedestrian last two seasons out of his mouth, prepared for a rebound season in 2023 in a peculiar way: he ignored baseball and focused on himself.
Yelich needs a “bounce back” season.
Ever since breaking his kneecap fouling off a pitch in Miami on September 10, 2019, Yelich has not been the same. In 2018, he won the National Leagues most valuable player award while nearly capturing the triple crown as well. He was on track to win MVP honors again in 2019. At the time of his season-ending injury Yelich had hammered 44 home runs, knocked in 97 runs, and was hitting a robust .329. He only needed 130 games to amass these numbers.
Since that fateful game against the Marlins, Yelich’s production has been, well, very un-Yelich-like. His numbers plummeted like a rock down a well in 2021 but he also struggled with back injuries. That year he played in just 117 games, hit nine home runs, knocked in 51 runners, and batted a paltry .248. His stats rose just slightly last season. Over 154 games he belted 14 home runs, drove in 57, and settled for a .252 average. Likewise, his wins above replacement (WAR) sank from 7.0 in 2019 to 1.2 in 2021 before improving to 2.7 last season.
To his credit, Yelich determined to break this pattern by changing up his winter routine and following a very atypical regimen.
Yelich went “off the grid” this offseason.
Adam McCalvy, Brewers beat writer for mlb.com, reported that Yelich simply got away from the game entirely in hopes of recharging his career.
“I kind of just went off the grid. I hung out and enjoyed the down time. I think sometimes you get caught up in taking a week or two off and then it’s back to baseball season, which is cool. But I think it’s good to have balance sometimes, too.”
While the majority of ballplayers spend their offseason working out religiously in order to hone their crafts and discover an edge to succeed in this competitive sport, Yelich traveled, caught up with friends and family, and otherwise took time to gather his thoughts, emotions, and rejuvenate himself for 2023. While it remains to be seen if his approach will prove successful, Yelich has at least broken the chain of insanity by mixing it up a bit. Whatever he had done prior to the last two seasons did not work. Here’s to the hope that the once-MVP can regain his mojo and steer his team back to the postseason.
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