As the current MLB Most Valuable Player races for both leagues begin to heat up, I think that we should take a look back at one of the more controversial NL MVP races in recent history: that of 2019. It was during that year that the league’s MVP race pit the Milwaukee Brewers’ Christian Yelich against the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger.
Yelich seemed to have the clear lead until a late-season injury derailed his award chances. The race was super intense, and it even led to an MLB TV commercial, “Yeli vs. Belli” where the two play a game of “M-V-P.”
If you ask a Dodgers fan, Cody Bellinger totally deserved the MVP because Yelich got injured. If you ask a Brewers fan, Yelich still deserved it despite his injury because his stats and impact were still greater. Both arguments have some merit, so today we will break down both sides of the argument, with the hope of coming to an answer to the question:
Did Bellinger deserve MVP in 2019, or was Yelich Robbed?
Of course, If you know anything about me, you know my mind is very much made up when it comes to this issue. However, I will attempt to stay as impartial as I possibly can (until the end when I give my answer to who I think wins).
The Case for Cody Bellinger
In 2019, Cody Bellinger was coming off of a mediocre season that was, by all means, a disappointment compared to his rookie of the year campaign in 2017. He finished 2018 off with a slash line of .260/.343/.470 (AVG/OBP/SLG), and hit twenty-five home runs. Not necessarily bad, but it sure looked terrible compared to what he would do next.
2019 Cody Bellinger was a monster at the plate. At only 23 years old, he slashed .305/.406/.629 and hit forty-seven round-trippers in a National League MVP campaign. Bellinger led the Dodgers to their seventh straight National League West Division title. They would be the #1 seed in the National League with a record of 106-56, but would be stunned in the NLDS by the white-hot Nationals en route to a World Series title.
Bellinger would finish that season with a Gold Glove, Silver Slugger, All-Star appearance, and the coveted NL MVP award.
Now, that resume looks great… and, by all means, it is! But does it stand up to Yelich’s? Let’s find out:
The Case for Christian Yelich
Unlike Bellinger, Yelich was coming off of a monster season the year before. In 2018, Christian Yelich ran away with the NL MVP award with a slash line of .326/.402/.598 and thirty-six home runs.
Although Yelich had a good, but not a great start to the season, he went on an absolute tear in the second half. By season’s end, Yelich had led the Brewers to a 96-67 record, and an NL Central crown. They had earned the #1 seed in the National League. They swept the Rockies in the NLDS before losing a tight seven-game NLCS to Bellinger’s Dodgers.
Many believed that MVP would be a tight race between Yelich and Cubs SS Javier Baez, but Yelich ended up all but sweeping the MVP voting. He won overall twenty-nine first-place votes and won the 2018 NL MVP award in a landslide.
Many looked to see if Yelich could recreate that success for himself.
It didn’t take long to find the answer: He absolutely did.
Back to Back?
To put it lightly, Christian Yelich was an absolute machine in 2019. Yelich slashed .329/.429/.671, leading baseball in all three statistics. Yelich also hit forty bombs, in just one hundred and thirty games. Despite Yelich’s best efforts, the Brewers were not able to capture the division a second time, and fell to the NL’s second wild-card spot.
Yelich would break his knee cap on a foul ball in late September, rendering the Brewers without their MVP for the remainder of the season. Although the team would get hot despite the lack of Yelich’s presence, they would meet an unfortunate end.
They would end up losing in heartbreaking fashion in the NL Wild Card game, where they saw a two-run lead evaporate in the eighth inning. As mentioned before, the Nationals were white-hot during the playoff race, and they weren’t done yet. They would beat both Yelich’s Brewers (NLWC) and Bellinger’s Dodgers (NLDS) in the postseason that year.
With that injury, Yelich would end up losing the MVP award to Bellinger. Belli had nineteen first-place votes to Yeli’s ten. (Anthony Rendon would also receive one first-place vote).
Who Deserved it More?
Honestly, the answer to that question depends on what you believe that an MVP must do to win the award. If it’s the best player in the league, it’s all but a wash with maybe a slight lean towards Bellinger. If it is to be taken literally to mean the “most valuable” player to a team, then you give it to Yelich, as he all but carried the Brewers in 2019.
Of course, I am obviously biased, but I personally would take Yelich. He was head and shoulders the best player in the National League that season. The only reason that he didn’t run away with the award was his injury, which all but disqualified him in the eyes of the voters.
Who do you think should’ve won the 2019 NL MVP Award? let us know!
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