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Christian Yelich, National League MVP, Cody Bellinger


How close is the National League MVP race?

  • CLUTCH SUMMARY: With Christian Yelich and Cody Bellinger locked into another eventful race for the National League MVP, playoff positioning for both teams looks to be a big-time deciding factor.
  • Yelich has had an overall better offensive season so far, leading the NL in home runs for practically the entire season, mostly by himself.
  • Bellinger has recently tied Yelich atop the leaderboard for home runs but is lacking in other major offensive categories, thus putting him behind Yelich in the award race.

Seen mostly as a two-horse race as the middle of August is upon us, the performances that both incumbent National League MVP winner Christian Yelich and Los Angeles Dodgers star Cody Bellinger have put together have been nothing short of nuts. With the entire league setting records and making the idea that the ball is juiced a reality and not even something that the MLB can hide anymore, these two players have set themselves apart from the rest of the field.

Both have dealt with injuries and/or dry spells at the plate this year at some point, and even though the MVP award is technically based on individual accomplishments, it is hard to not include the performance that the Dodgers have put together in 2019, thus boosting the case of Bellinger.

This looks to be one of the more recent instances of not having a runaway candidate that has already sewn up the award. Both Yelich and Bellinger have the innate abilities to string together a few red-hot weeks of baseball at the plate, which would almost certainly be the deciding factor in this race.

The case for Christian Yelich

When he was a member of the youthful but bumbling Miami Marlins, Christian Yelich had that potential oozing out of him, but never being put in that situation to succeed was holding back his talents. Ever since he was traded to Milwaukee, the Pete Davidson-esque outfielder has been on an absolute mission, both at the plate and in the field.

When considering statistics for MVP awards, the gaudy offensive numbers are always looked to first, because those are the sexy ones that garner the most attention. However, defensive metrics matter not as much but enough to for sure have a say in any important award race, including league MVP.

For Yelich, being able to play all three outfield positions is a key to his durability and flexibility, and while the Brewers have better depth on their side so Yelich does not have to slide around all that often, he still grades out as one of the better defensive outfielders in the league.

Committing three errors across 101 games in right field is really solid, as that equals out to be 0.003 errors/inning played, a very minuscule number that puts him tied for fifth-most in the league. While that ranking is high on the list, the amount of errors is low, so it is still a really good ranking on defense.

Yelich leads the NL in defensive double plays from right field, ranking as the lone outfielder to have recorded two so far this season. He also sits second in outfield defensive assists with seven and fifth with 170 putouts.

Offensively, this guy just continues to rake – that is the easiest way to put it. At the end of the day on Aug. 14, Yelich was tied for the lead in the NL in home runs, ranking second in batting average, seventh in runs driven in, fourth in stolen bases, tenth in walks, ninth in runs scored, ninth in total hits, first in on-base percentage, first in slugging, first in on-base plus slugging percentage, first in OPS+, first in total bases and second in intentional walks.

All over the board in offensive stats, 2019 has been yet another fantastic season for Yelich, and his performance so far has pushed him seemingly out ahead of Bellinger in the race.

A negative aspect of 2019 has been the back injury flaring up yet again for Yelich, and he has been forced to miss time on multiple occasions. While losing time is never good for a team looking to make it back to the playoffs, Yelich’s back has mostly held up this season, and even with recently just having missed about a week’s worth of games, the Brewers have support in place to be able to handle any absences Christian Yelich may have.

The case for Cody Bellinger

Hitting in what can be considered as mostly a pitcher-friendly park, Cody Bellinger has torn the cover off the ball this season. Coming in as one of the top competitors for Yelich in 2018 in the MVP race, Belli is back for more in 2019, looking to be putting together a much stronger case than the year prior.

For his performance on the Dodgers, Bellinger has helped lead his team to a commanding divisional lead from the get-go, making his team’s performance a key factor in his award chances.

At the end of the day on Aug. 14, Bellinger was tied for the lead in the NL in home runs, ranking seventh in batting average, fifth in runs driven in, twenty-fifth in stolen bases, fifth in walks, third in runs scored, tenth in total hits, second in on-base percentage, second in slugging, second in on-base plus slugging percentage, second in OPS+, second in total bases and third in intentional walks.

Defensively, Bellinger’s case is a bit different, as he is also multi-positional, but he shifts between the infield and the outfield. In his career, he has played first base, left field, center field and right field, putting up impressive defensive stats at all four positions.

The knock on Bellinger is that playing for a large-market squad definitely adds a sense of over-hype to any situation, and while his stats are good, they may be getting blown out of the water due to being a member of the Dodgers. National bias aside, the fourth-round draft pick from 2013 has been super impressive and has deservedly earned his way into the MVP conversation.

In short, the race is really that close. Offensively, both candidates rate across the board in multitudes of categories, but Yelich has more first-place ranks (6) than Bellinger does (1). Cody Bellinger is very consistent, but certain aspects, including consistently ranking directly below Yelich in a bunch of offensive categories, puts him a few steps behind Yelich at this point.

There is a ton of baseball left this season, and both the Brewers and Dodgers are jockeying for playoff position and both players are looking to remain as key catalysts for their respective teams in those hunts. September looks to be the deciding month for the MVP award, one that looks to currently be a favorite for Yelich to repeat with, although Bellinger’s chances are very high to win his first.