Christian Yelich Was Two Different Baseball Players in 2015

Miami Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich signed a seven-year, $49.57 million contract before the 2015 season began. At the time, it was seen as a great deal for the Fish since Yelich was coming off a 4.4-WAR sophomore season which followed a 1.3-WAR rookie year. But then the season began and Yelich struggled mightily. In April, he slashed a measly .200/.265/.222. He didn’t improve much in May, posting a .231/.294/.333 line. June was a bit better, as he was able to hit .287/.362/.415. But was that just a hot month? Was the real Christian Yelich the one who couldn’t hit, couldn’t run, and couldn’t field?

Yelich assuaged any concern the Marlins and their fans may have had in the second half of the season. All combined, before the All-Star break, Yelich hit a pathetic .264/.344/.366. He struck out in 22.8% of his times at bat and posted only a .102 ISO. The second half? The real Christian Yelich showed up, the one the Marlins agreed to pay an average of just over $7 million for the next seven years. Post All-Star break, Yelich belted the ball to the tune of a .342/.392/.473 line. Along with that, he only struck out in 15% of his plate appearances and showed a bit more pop with a .131 ISO.

While Yelich’s second half was certainly impressive, he was boosted by a .402 BABIP. League average usually sits around .300, but Yelich has always produced higher numbers than that. In his rookie season, his BABIP was .380. The following year, it was .356, and for all of 2015 combined it was .370. Spanning 1298 at bats over his three-year career, Yelich has produced a .365 BABIP. Therefore, it is safe to say that his second half numbers in 2015 were not completely flukey and unsustainable. Sure, the .402 may drop a bit, but not nearly as precipitously as another player’s might.

Yelich is set up for a bright future with the bat, and has already developed a reputation as an excellent fielder. He won the Gold Glove in 2014 and is nominated again for the award in 2015. He had a much better defensive season in 2014 than he did in 2015, but Gold Glove nominations rely much more heavily on reputation than they do on actual production. In 2014, he put up an impressive 10.2 UZR/150 and 10 DRS split between 76.2 innings in center field and 1182 innings in left. He was a bit less impressive to say the least in 2015, compiling a -4.4 UZR/150 but still saving 8 runs per DRS. He spent more time in center field in 2015, spending 282.2 innings there and 786.2 in left.

Overall, Christian Yelich is not the superstar on the Marlins. That distinction belongs to Giancarlo Stanton with the bat and Jose Fernandez with the arm. However, a team with two superstars and no one else around to support them can’t do much. Christian Yelich is an excellent complementary piece for a team that had thoughts of contending in 2014 before almost everything that could possibly go wrong went wrong. Yelich should remain in the top third of the Marlins order for years to come and should be able to get a great view of Stanton’s legendary homeruns from somewhere on the basepaths.

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