StaTuesday: Early in game or late, Brewers’ Yelich rakes

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              Milwaukee Brewers' Christian Yelich watches the ball after hitting a solo home run during the first inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals Wednesday, May 8, 2019, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)
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In case you haven’t noticed, Christian Yelich is having another MVP-level type season.

Through Milwaukee’s first 60 games, of which Yelich has played 53, he’s slashing .313/.425/.719, leads the league in home runs (22) and steals (12), has scored 46 runs and knocked in 49, the latter two of which both rank in the top five in the National League.

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His at-bats are must-watch appearances. Yelich is a prime reason to make sure you’re in your seat at the ballpark or in front of your TV in time for his first at bat. And, really, for any of his bats it’s a good reason to remain in your seat. If you have to go to the bathroom, you hold it; or if you’re hungry, you starve for a few extra minutes. And for good reason.

In the first three innings of a game, no player in the major league has hit more home runs tan Yelich’s 12 or has more RBI than his 26. Entering Tuesday’s games, only one other player has hit 10+ homers in the early innings – and it’s another reason to stay seated – teammate Mike Moustakas, who has 11. Moustakas is also second in RBI over innings 1-3 with 24. Only nine other players have 20+.

It’s no wonder, then, that the Brewers are above the league average in runs scored in the first three innings this season. Milwaukee is averaging 0.67 runs in the first (league average 0.53), 0.50 in the second (0.48) and 0.97 in the third (0.59).

Thanks to those longballs, Moustakas and Yelich are also 1-2 in slugging percentage in the early innings – and they are atop the leaderboard by a wide margin. Only two other players in MLB have a slugging percentage over .714 in innings 1-3.

PLAYER TEAM PA SLG%
Mike Moustakas MIL 80 .867
Christian Yelich MIL 93 .864
Josh Bell PIT 81 .824
J.D. Martinez BOS 81 .781
Clay Bellinger LAD 89 .714
Franmil Reyes SD 78 .714
Raimel Tapia COL 57 .712
Carlos Correa HOU 76 .703
Nolan Arenado COL 90 .696
Joc Pederson LAD 79 .692

But Yelich, of course, is not just about the early innings. Bring in a reliever to face him, and he pounds them, too.

Yelich’s slash line against relievers in thus far is .382/.523/.809. That’s ranks him first in batting average, second in on-base percentage and second in slugging percentage vs. relief pitchers this season.

Only eight players in MLB are batting better than .350 against relievers.

PLAYER TEAM PA AVG
Christian Yelich MIL 88 .382
Jorge Polanco MIN 97 .376
Brian Goodwin LAA 84 .365
Anthony Rendon WAS 72 .362
David Dahl COL 75 .358
Nomar Mazara TEX 94 .356
Freddie Freeman ATL 92 .354
Elvis Andrus TEX 82 .351
Xavier Bogaerts BOS 104 .348
Christian Walker ARI 96 .345

Yelich has hit “only” eight of his 22 home runs against pitchers out of the opposing bullpen (tied for eighth most), but he’s just one of two players with a slugging percentage higher than .800 vs. relievers.

PLAYER TEAM PA SLG%
Pete Alonso NYM 88 .908
Christian Yelich MIL 88 .809
Anthony Rendon WAS 72 .741
Christian Walker ARI 96 .738
Rhys Hoskins PHI 103 .733
Javy Baez CHC 105 .701
Matt Chapman OAK 101 .670
Willson Contreras CHC 94 .650
Jonathan Schoop MIN 95 .648
Clay Bellinger LAD 108 .636

One of the reasons that Yelich’s slugging percentage is so high is he’s walked 18 times (and been hit twice), thus meaning he has just 68 at bats (which is used to compute slugging percentage). Only a handful of players have walked more times against relief pitchers. The Angels’ Mike Trout leads the way with 28. Trout also barely has a better on-base percentage against relievers than Yelich.

Trout and Yelich are the only players in MLB with an OBP north of .500 against relief pitchers.

PLAYER TEAM PA OBP%
Mike Trout ANA 82 .524
Christian Yelich MIL 88 .523
Carlos Santana CLE 89 .494
Anthony Rendon WAS 72 .486
Andrew McCutchen PHI 94 .457
Jorge Polanco MIN 97 .454
Mookie Betts BOS 106 .453
Rhys Hoskins PHI 103 .447
Clay Bellnger LAD 108 .444
Ronald Acuna Jr. ATL 92 .444
Austin Meadows TB 72 .444

Trout, however, is batting just .245 off relievers. He’s better in the late innings (7-9) at .265, though. Guess who else is better in the late innings? Yup, another reason to stay in your seat when Yelich’s time up is near.

In innings 7-9, Yelich is slashing .408/.532/.755. Only Trout has a better on-base percentage (.536) and Yelich is fifth in slugging percentage. No one else is batting at least .400, however.

PLAYER TEAM PA AVG
Christian Yelich MIL 62 .408
Austin Meadows TB 53 .395
Pete Alonso NYM 73 .381
Christian Walker ARI 72 .375
Nomar Mazara TEX 63 .371
Anthony Rendon WAS 52 .366
David Dahl COL 59 .365
Wil Myers SD 67 .362
Clay Bellinger LAD 77 .359
Javy Baez CHC 70 .359

For reference, since 2000, only four players (minimum 60 plate appearances) have batted .400 or better in the late innings and none since 2005. (Those four: Jose Vidro, .412 in 146 PA in 2001; Ichiro Suzuki, .408 in 211 PA in 2004, Carlos Baerga, .404 in 102 PA in 2003 and Derrek Lee, 401 in 199 PA in 2005).

So, yeah, sit down, relax and enjoy. And hit the restroom, concessions or fridge when the other team is batting.

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