StaTuesday: Brewers’ Yelich having an April for the ages

You probably don’t need us to tell you this, but Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich is having a tremendous start to the 2019 season.

But let us place some historical context on it. Basically, Yelich might not want to see the calendar flip to May.

Entering Tuesday, Yelich has played 24 games in March and April. He leads the National League in home runs (13), RBI (31), OPS (1.259) and extra-base hits (17), is second in bWAR (1.8), slugging percentage (.820) and runs (23), third in hits (30), fourth in walks (16), seventh in on-base percentage (.439) and ninth in batting average (.332).

Yelich tied Prince Fielder (May 2007) for the most home runs by a Brewers player in any month and is one away from tying the MLB record for most home runs hit in March/April – and the Brewers still have seven games remaining in the month.

MOST HR MARCH/APRIL IN MLB HISTORY

PLAYER YEAR G PA HR
Albert Pujols 2006 25 110 14
Alex Rodriguez 2007 23 106 14
Christian Yelich 2019 24 107 13
Ken Griffey Jr. 1997 26 119 13
Luis Gonzalez 2001 25 109 13
Matt Kemp 2012 23 98 12
Justin Upton 2013 26 112 12

Yelich would have to average a home run a day for most in MLB history in any month – Sammy Sosa had 20 in June 1998. Forty-seven times has a player reached 15 homers in any month. Cy Williams was the first to do it in May 1923 with 15; Aaron Judge with 15 and J.D. Martinez with 16 in September/October 2017 were the last to reach that amount in a month.

Yelich has averaged 1.3 RBI per game so far this season, but he’d need to step it up to nearly three per game for the rest of April to be one of a handful of players to knock in 50 in a month’s span. Just five players have accomplished that feat, lead by Hack Wilson (August 1930) and Joe DiMaggio (August 1939) with 53. Three players drove in exactly 50 – Lou Gehrig (July 1930), Pie Traynor (August 1928) and Rudy York (August 1937).

Since 1990, only four players have reached 40 RBI in a month, topped by Ryan Howard with 41 in August 2006. Ryan Klesko (May 2001), Sosa (June 1998) and Troy Tulowitzki (September/October 2010) all reached 40 RBI. Adrian Beltre, with 38 RBI in September/October 2015, has the most since Tulowitzki.

There are other RBI records in sight, though, for Yelich.

He’s just five away from tying and six from having the most RBI in March/April in MLB history.

MOST RBI MARCH/APRIL IN MLB HISTORY

PLAYER YEAR G PA RBI
Mark McGwire 1998 25 117 36
Juan Gonzalez 1998 26 119 36
Tino Martinez 1997 27 130 34
Alex Rodriguez 2007 23 106 34
Vinny Castilla 1998 28 122 33
Albert Pujols 2006 25 110 32
Josh Hamilton 2008 28 132 32
Barry Bonds 1996 26 116 32
Jose Abreu 2014 29 128 32
Manny Ramirez 2001 25 112 31
Christian Yelich 2019 24 107 31
Joe Carter 1994 24 109 31
Miguel Tejada 2005 23 104 31
Giancarlo Stanton 2014 27 120 31

He also has an outside chance of having the most RBI in any month in Brewers history. While a chance to finish at No. 2 seems more likely, he needs only eight to tie and nine to pass Cecil Cooper. Based on his current average for the month, it’s definitely within reach.

MOST RBI MARCH/APRIL IN BREWERS HISTORY

PLAYER MONTH YEAR PA RBI
Cecil Cooper July 1983 123 39
Greg Vaughn June 1996 113 35
Christian Yelich Sept/Oct 2018 118 34
Richie Sexson Sept/Oct 2001 121 32
Gorman Thomas August 1979 127 32
Cecil Cooper August 1980 140 32
Christian Yelich April/March 2019 107 31
Jeromy Burnitz June 1999 116 31
Prince Fielder May 2009 120 31
Ben Oglivie Sept/Oct 1980 126 30
John Jaha June 1996 116 30
Carlos Lee May 2005 122 30

You might notice that Yelich is listed twice on the above list, as he also had an outstanding end of his 2018 season, which helped propel him to be named MVP.

His slash line from that month was .370/.508/.804, which is kind of, sort of similar to what he’s done in March/April of this year. He was walked a bit more back at the end of 2018, but he’s slugging higher in 2019. His 1.313 OPS from last September/October isn’t that much higher than his 1.259 so far this season.

In fact, if you put together Yelich’s last two months of baseball in the regular season, he’s 64 for 181 – a .354 batting average – with 10 doubles, two triples, 23 home runs, 47 runs and 65 RBI. If you extrapolate that over to 162 games, that’d come out to 73 home runs, 149 runs and 207 RBI.

It’s very unlikely that Yelich can keep this pace up over an entire season. But based on his past two months of the regular season, we’re not 100% confident in that statement. How could you be?

Dave Heller is the author of Ken Williams: A Slugger in Ruth’s Shadow (a Larry Ritter Book Award nominee), Facing Ted Williams – Players From the Golden Age of Baseball Recall the Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived and As Good As It Got: The 1944 St. Louis Browns