The start to the 2020 season has been dismal for Milwaukee’s megastar outfielder, Christian Yelich. He has just three hits compared to 16 strikeouts; just one home run and a .088 batting average across 34 at-bats.
He simply looks lost at the plate.
The 9 games Milwaukee has played is admittedly a small sample size, but this slump is still concerning for Brewers fans and coaches alike, who have seen nothing but star-level production from Yelich since his acquisition in 2018. There are a few potential reasons to discuss as for why this slump has occurred. This article is mostly a hypothetical exercise, and it is important to remember that slumps happen to the best of players, and it might not be all that deep after all.
1. He’s still coming off of a significant injury
Back in September of 2019, Yelich fouled a pitch off of his kneecap, prematurely ending his season in the middle of the Brewers’ playoff chase. While it is hard to draw a direct correlation between an injury that took place almost 11 months ago to Yelich’s current slump, it does mean that Yelich is more “rusty” than his peers, which could help explain his slow start. Not seeing live pitches for that long is not a recipe for immediate success.
2. Is it all mental?
On Wednesday, Craig Counsell was asked about his decision to leave Christian Yelich off the starting lineup and he said it is “More intended to be a mental break than anything else.” That is an important clue, because it suggests that Yelich is likely in his own head, rather than struggling with a mechanical issue. Could the general strangeness and uncertainty surrounding the 2020 season and in the state of the world generally be cause for some distraction and thus, this slump? I think it is plausible. Since there are no fans in the stands, which reminds everyone that we are not living in a normal time, we are not seeing the normal Christian Yelich either.
3. The rest of the lineup is not helping the cause
Hot hitting can be extremely contagious within a clubhouse. If one or two players are hitting with confidence, the rest of a team tends to thrive due to there being less individual pressure to perform.The reverse is also true. The entire Brewers offense, minus a couple exceptions in Ben Gamel and Keston Hiura, has been very uninspiring. The club has only hit six home runs, which is tied for the fewest in all of baseball. They are also hitting just .206 collectively. One could surmise that once Yelich sees his teammates start to pick up the slack offensively, he will follow suit (looking at you, Narvaez & Smoak).
Despite the ugly slump, Brewers faithful shouldn’t be in a panic. Slumps happen to everyone, even the greats. It’s certainly stressful and frustrating to watch, especially considering how crucial each of these regular season games is during this 60-game season. Soon enough, though, Christian Yelich will be back to being the outstanding player that we all know he can be.