We all know Christian Yelich was one of the best hitters in the league in 2018 and 2019, and we all know he hasn’t been nearly the same ever since. The never-ending optimist in me believes Yelich’s future seasons will look closer to his 18-19 seasons than it will his 20-21 seasons, but he will most likely never reach those heights again just because of how rare those seasons actually are.
While he didn’t really catch fire until the second half of 2018, he basically became a one man offensive juggernaut from the moment he was traded to the Brewers to that fateful moment he fouled that ball off his kneecap. While he has been an above average hitter in the two seasons since (103 OPS+), it feels like he’s been truly awful just because of how good he was the years prior.
In order to show just how rare seasons like Yelich’s stretch was, here are a handful or stat combinations via Stathead that he achieved along with other players who achieved them. Some of them may feel a little niche or like I had moved a few too many goalposts, but hey, they’re my goalposts and I’ll put them wherever I like.
Stats in comparison
Players who had multiple seasons with an OPS above 1.000 and at least 20 stolen bases since the Integration Era (1947):
- Barry Bonds (7)
- Willie Mays (3)
- Jeff Bagwell (3)
- Alex Rodriguez (2)
- Mike Trout (2)
- Christian Yelich (2)
Players with multiple seasons of batting at least .320, slugging at least .590, and stealing at least 20 bases in AL/NL history:
- Sam Thompson (2, 1894-1895)
- Ed Delahanty (2, 1895-1896)
- Ty Cobb (2, 1911 and 1921)
- George Sisler (2, 1920 and 1922)
- Christian Yelich
Nobody playing in the AL or NL had back-to-back .320/.590/20 seasons from Ed Delahanty in 1896 until Yelich in 2019. For context, America gained five states during that time. Oscar Charleston did manage the feat five times between 1921-1927, three times in the Negro National League and twice in the Eastern Colored League.
Players with multiple seasons of a slashing at least .300/.400/.590 in the last 10 seasons:
- Bryce Harper (3)
- Mike Trout (2)
- Christian Yelich (2)
Oddly enough, Harper never did it in consecutive seasons. Only seven other players have a single season slashing .300/.400/.590 in the last ten years, so it has happened a total of 14 times in the last decade. Of those 14, seven of them won MVP and three lost out on MVP to another player that had done it that year. The top three vote getters for NL MVP in 2019 had all done it, with Cody Bellinger taking home the award over Yelich and Anthony Rendon.
Most home runs hit at home in a single season with fewer than 300 plate appearances:
- Hank Aaron- 31 (1971)
- Babe Ruth- 29 (1920)
- Hank Greenberg- 29 (1946)
- J.D. Martinez- 27 (2017)
- Christian Yelich- 27 (2019)
I feel the need to point out Yelich had an OPS of 1.006 on the road in 2019, just in case Yu Darvish happens to see that one.
Players to lead their league in batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage while stealing at least 30 bases in a season:
- Christian Yelich (2019)
That’s a nice short list. A couple things to point out here, I said “their league” and not “the league” because Mike Trout edged out Yelich’s on-base percentage by 9 points that year. So nobody has ever done it in the American League or the 12 other major leagues in American baseball history. I also feel the need to give an honorable mention to Larry Walker here. In 1997 he stole 33 bases and led the National League in OBP and SLG, but his .366 batting average wasn’t enough for a batting title. Thanks, Tony Gwynn.
Stats from just 2018-2019
Nevertheless, Christian Yelich’s ability to run, walk, hit, and hit with power for that brief but glorious period of time was extremely rare and we cannot honestly hold him to that standard. On the other side of that coin, here are some stats from 2018-2019 you might not have known:
Reds third baseman Eugenio Suarez hit more home runs (83) than Yelich (80). They trail only Mike Trout (84) in that category.
Juan Soto, who was a 19 year old rookie in 2018, drew more walks (187) than Yelich (148).
Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco was intentionally walked (26) more than Yelich (18).
Yelich’s 89.66% stolen base success rate was the best among players who attempted at least 40 steals (29 players). He’s the only player in that timeframe to steal at least 50 bases while getting caught fewer than 10 times (52 SB 6 CS).
Whether he rebounds to All-Star form or not, that two-year peak was truly special. If you don’t isolate those two years and enjoy them for what they were, you might never be able to judge Christian Yelich fairly or really enjoy what he does produce in the future.