Christian Yelich Making History:
Christian Yelich of the Milwaukee Brewers became the third player on record to hit for the cycle twice in one season. Yelich decided to complete the cycle the hard way, when he hit a triple in the bottom of the 6th inning against the Cincinnati Reds. Yelich joins Aaron Hill (2012) and Babe Herman (1931) who also hit for the cycle twice in one season. The Reds are not rookies to watching Christian hit for the cycle. Yelich hit for the cycle on August 29th against the same Cincinnati Reds team. This feat puts Yelich into the record books as the only player who has hit for the cycle twice in the same year against the same team.
Yelich has traditionally been known as a traditional hitter. He does his best to keep his bat in the hitting zone for a long time, and tries to hit line drives, and hard ground balls. Yelich is a career .294 hitter to this point, and has proven his consistency. He is currently hitting .313 with 31 HR’s (his highest home-run total of his career, with multiple games left to be played). His swing has been almost identical throughout his career so what has changed? The simple answer, his approach.
Approach is something that upper-level hitters always talk about. It is the mindset of finding your pitch and barreling it up. The count, and the situation of the game play a huge factor in a hitters approach. Hitting and pitching becomes a chess match at high levels of baseball. The hitter is looking for one pitch, and the pitcher tries to throw the opposite. Having a repeatable and mechanically sound swing is only half the battle of hitting. The biggest aspect is understanding how to come up with a plan, and then adapting that plan each and every at-bat.
Upon analyzing Yelich’s approach, it is apparent where he found his success. In the beginning of 2018 during the month of April Yelich was swinging at 20% of first-pitches. During the month of June this number increased to 24%. After the All-Star Break is when Yelich really got hot. He was swinging at 30% of first-pitches in July, and 41% in August. It is very apparent that his approach was to attack the first pitch.
Yelich was not only trying to swing at the first pitch, he was also trying to do something with it. We have already mentioned that Yelich has been a consistent ground ball, and line drive hitter. He has spent his career trying to stay out of the air. However, analysis of his launch angle in 2018 shows a +11.2 launch angle, which has increased from his +3.2 launch angle from 2015. Yelich is hitting an astounding .492 on the first pitch with 32 hits, 8 of which were home-runs. These incredible stats go to show that Yelich was not only looking for the first-pitch, he was looking to hammer it.
This goes to show that approach, and mechanics play a large part when it comes to hitting. Yelich has reinvented himself as not only a high average hitter, but also a power hitter. It will be very interesting to see how pitchers start trying to attack him moving forward. Young hitters make it your goal to be students of the game and watch the chess match inside of the game of baseball. Yelich has obviously been studying the game and making the correct changes to his approach to create successful at-bats.