Miller: How Christian Yelich turned himself into an MVP

From Sam Miller at on September 3, 2019:

At the 2018 midseason break, Christian Yelich was a 26-year-old first-time All-Star with numbers very similar to those he had been putting up every year of his six-year career: a .292 batting average, 11 homers, 43 RBIs, .823 OPS. In the first game of the second half, he had three hits, and since that day, he has been the best hitter in the world, with an OPS that is almost a perfect match for Babe Ruth’s career and a home run rate that’s considerably better. From that pretty good first half he went on to win the MVP award. From the one All-Star break to the next, he led all of baseball in average (by nine points), homers (by 13!) and RBIs (by 27!!), a hidden triple crown. He is now more likely than not to make the Hall of Fame.

This is the era of the swing-change superstar: A mediocre player woodsheds his swing with an unconventional hitting guru, tearing down and rebuilding his mechanics piece by piece until he’s reborn as an out-of-nowhere power-hitting stud. That’s not Yelich’s story. Yelich can tell you what he changed at the All-Star break, but he still struggles with the question of why he changed it, and he certainly didn’t know anything like this was going to happen. For him, hitting was, and is, a matter of timing, of slowing the game down, baseball’s favorite mantra. But in retrospect, his breakout is still mysterious, because so much of hitting — especially during the most crucial microseconds — is insanity.

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Originally published: September 3, 2019. Last Updated: September 3, 2019.