StaTuesday: Brewers’ Yelich the definition of clutch in 2019

When tallying all the superlatives concerning Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich, you might as well add clutch to the list.

While it might be tough to actually quantify “clutch” is in Major League Baseball, we have a few ideas as it pertains to Yelich.

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Each of the 2018 MVP’s last five home runs have come in the ninth inning or later (four in the ninth, the other in the 13th). In all, Yelich has hit seven home runs in the ninth inning this season, becoming just the 25th player since 1925 with 7+ homers in that inning (note: information gleaned from, where play-by-play is fully complete back to 1974, mostly complete from 1950-73 and partially complete from 1925-49. You can see the breakdown here). Only four players have hit more than seven in the ninth inning over the course of a season: Tony Batista in 2000 and Justin Smoak in 2017 hold the record with 10, while Alex Rodriguez in 2007 and J.D. Martinez in 2014 had eight.

Yelich isn’t just about home runs in the ninth inning, though. He’s nearly impossible to get out.

In 33 at-bats in the ninth inning this season, Yelich has 18 hits – a .545 batting average. Add in three walks – all intentional – and his on-base percentage is .583. Oh, and of those 18 hits, 14 have gone for extra bases. You know about the seven home runs, but he also has six doubles and a triple in that inning, good for a 1.424 slugging percentage.

That means Yelich’s OPS in the ninth inning this year is an insane 2.008. Yeah, that’s pretty good. It’s so good, only two players in history (again, using the above caveat with play-by-play information) have a better OPS in the ninth inning over a season (minimum 20 plate appearances).

Joe Crede 2002 20 2.139
Jim Thome 2004 36 2.129
Christian Yelich 2019 36 2.008
Babe Ruth* 1932 24 1.889
Jody Gerut 2008 26 1.766
Carson Kelly 2019 34 1.729
George Watkins* 1930 27 1.723
Roy Carlyle* 1925 21 1.721
Brian Downing 1977 22 1.709
John Mayberry 1980 43 1.668

Yelich also has hit two home runs in extra innings – a game-tying shot in the bottom of the 10th inning against the Cubs’ Craig Kimbrel on July 27 and a go-ahead solo blast off Washington’s Javy Guerra in the 13th on Aug. 17.

He’s one of 11 players to have 2+ homers in extra innings this season, with Boston’s Mookie Betts and Pittsburgh’s Starling Marte leading the way with three each. Brewers teammate Keston Hiura also has two, by the way.

Overall, in what is considered a late and close game, Yelich is batting .435/.536/.812 in 84 plate appearances, with six doubles, a triple, six homers and 14 walks. His 1.347 OPS is far and away the best among all MLB players this season (min. 60 PA).

Christian Yelich Brewers 84 1.347
Xander Bogaerts Red Sox 62 1.188
Kris Bryant Cubs 82 1.160
Anthony Rendon Nationals 71 1.148
Carlos Santana Indians 66 1.143
Juan Soto Nationals 71 1.134
Daniel Vogelbach Mariners 69 1.126
Mike Trout Angels 77 1.109
Max Muncy Dodgers 81 1.096
Francisco Lindor Indians 69 1.089

In case you’re still not convinced that Yelich is clutch, he’s also fourth in the majors in OPS in high-leverage situations, at 1.203 (.378/.447/.756), behind Washington’s Anthony Rendon (1.372), Pittsburgh’s Bryan Reynolds (1.242) and the Indians’ Santana (1.209).

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