Whether Christian Yelich’s white-hot second half is enough for him to be named the Most Valuable Player in the National League remains to be seen. But with 162 games played and a 163rd game scheduled to decide the National League Central champion, what we do know is Yelich will become the first Milwaukee Brewer to win a batting title at the end of the day today.
.@ChristianYelich (.324) is going to be the first batting champion in franchise history. Prior to this season, the closest a #Brewers player ever came to winning a batting title was Robin Yount (.331), who finished behind the Royals' Willie Wilson— Mike Vassallo (@MikeVassallo13) September 30, 2018
(.332) in 1982. #Yelich4MVP
Since all stats accrued in Game 163 count towards the regular season, though, Yelich still has a chance for an even bigger accomplishment: the Triple Crown.
Baseball hasn’t seen a Triple Crown winner since Miguel Cabrera did it in 2012, leading the AL by hitting .330 with 44 home runs and 139 RBI. Since it was the first time a player had accomplished the feat since 1967, that was enough for Cabrera to be named the AL MVP over Mike Trout that season. In fact, the last time a Triple Crown winner did not win an MVP was in 1947, when Ted Williams did it but finished second to Joe DiMaggio by a single point (DiMaggio’s Yankees ran away with the pennant that year, while the Red Sox finished in a distant 3rd).
A Triple Crown in the National League is even more rare, though. That hasn’t happened in more than 80 years, when Joe Medwick did it for the 1937 St. Louis Cardinals, hitting .374 with 31 home runs and 154 RBI.
If Yelich’s season had finished after 162 games, he would’ve come up short. Ron Gardenhire’s decision to issue an intentional walk to Yelich with runners on 2nd and 3rd robbed him of the opportunity to possibly pull into a tie for the NL lead in RBI, and Nolan Arenado’s two home runs on Sunday gave him the National League lead with 37.
Heading into the final FINAL game of the season, here is where Yelich stands in the Triple Crown categories:
1. Christian Yelich, .323
2. Scooter Gennett, .310
3. Freddie Freeman, .309
T-4. Lorenzo Cain, .308
T-4. Anthony Rendon, .308
1. Nolan Arenado, 37
T-2. Christian Yelich, 36
T-2. Matt Carpenter, 36
T-2. Trevor Story, 36
5. Jesus Aguilar, 35
Runs Batted In
1. Javier Baez, 111
T-2. Christian Yelich, 109
T-2. Nolan Arenado, 109
4. Jesus Aguilar, 108
5. Trevor Story, 107
If the Brewers and Cubs were playing in the only tiebreaker game on Monday, the math for a Yelich Triple Crown would be pretty simple: hit a home run and bring in 2 or more runs than Baez, and go down in the history books.
But things are complicated by the Rockies/Dodgers tiebreaker game that’s also taking place Monday, after the Brewers and Cubs settle their dispute in Chicago.
While Yelich has the batting title virtually locked up — he would apparently have to go 0-for-25 on Monday to lose it — it’s entirely possible Arenado continues his own hot streak. Yelich could hit a 3-run home run and end his season in the lead for a Triple Crown, only to see Arenado hit another home run to secure the home run crown, or drive in 4 runs to steal the RBI title.
Even if Yelich doesn’t win the Triple Crown, he’s still staked his claim as the most deserving position player in the NL of MVP consideration. He leads NL hitters in both fWAR and bWAR, holding a 2.1-win lead over Javier Baez in the Fangraphs calculation and a 1.3-win lead in the Baseball-Reference formula. He also has the highest wOBA by more than 30 points, the highest wRC+ by 17, and the highest OPS by 75 points.
Arguments could be made that Jacob deGrom was so dominating — 1.70 ERA, 1.99 FIP, 8.8 fWAR, striking out 32.2% of the batters he faced this year — that he’s worthy of MVP consideration, but he’s likely Yelich’s only true competition for the league’s highest honor.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs