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Series Preview: Milwaukee has had its share of visitors, but Christian Yelich is here to stay

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The dynamic 27-year old’s power-speed combo makes him a top three player in baseball.

MLB: Milwaukee Brewers at Houston Astros Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The best three players in baseball right now as I type this are Cody Bellinger, Mike Trout, and Christian Yelich. But here’s where Christian Yelich is better than both of them:

  • 14 of 15 on stolen bases (Bellinger & Trout have combined for 14)
  • .404 ISO (Isolated Power), which (as a reminder) “is a measure of a hitter’s raw power and tells you how often a player hits for extra bases.” The league average at the moment is .178. Trout’s is at .327, Bellinger’s is at .346. That’s why Yelich also leads the league in slugging percentage (.749 — or what Bonds slugged over a full season in 2003).
  • Two key contact rate categories: 35.2% home run to fly ball rate and a 54.2% hard hit rate. He only trails Joey Gallo in those categories.

So, when you think of Yelich, you’re thinking of a rare power-contact-combo threat. Defensively, he’s not quite in the same league as Cody Bellinger has been this year, but he’s been very good in the outfield overall.

He’s the exact kind of player every single franchise would want except for the Marlins, who gave him away in a fit of pique or whatever Derek Jeter’s master plan might be — which I think was to simply remake the organization in his image, but who really knows? But enough about the Marlins. This weekend, you and the Giants will get a front row seat to one of the best players in baseball.

He’s the type of player every rebuilding team hopes to find. Imagine a farm system filled with Yelich-types, running and roping line drives all over the minor leagues. That’s the promise of having a new data-driven front office. They won’t be finding the hidden gems, they’ll be creating new ones through development. We’re years and years and years and years and years and years and years away from seeing any of that payoff, but in the meantime, we can watch and marvel at a Christian Yelich just absolutely bashing the Giants brains in as he figures to do this weekend.

And if that doesn’t happen, figure his teammates will pick up the slack. The Brewers’ rotation is Brandon Woodruff, Zach Davies, and occasionally Chase Anderson amidst injuries (Jhoulys Chacin and Gio Gonzalez) and ineffectiveness (Freddy Peralta and Corbin Burnes), but their bullpen is still the frightfully strong force that emerged last postseason — although, when you look at the analytics, they’re only a shade better than the Giants’ bullpen.

The Brewers are 7-3 in their first 10 games of June and 17-16 on the road this season, and their offense is so good that it makes up for their (collectively) middling pitching and slightly below average defense.

Hitter to watch

I just spent all that time talking about Christian Yelich.

Pitcher to watch

Tonight’s starter, Zach Davis, is 7-0 with a 2.41 ERA. Now, you might think that’s dominant, but there’s this thing called FIP, and that puts him at a far more mortal 4.01. FIP measures walks, strikeouts, and home runs allowed, as those are viewed as the only things really within a pitcher’s control. By that measure, Davies’ 21 walks in 13 starts, 48 strikeouts (5.79 K/9), and 7 home runs are pedestrian by baseball’s standards.

For context: the top 5 FIP-havers are Max Scherzer (2.05), Lucas Giolito (2.47), Hyun-Jin Ryu (2.63), Charlie Morton (2.67), and Jake Odorizzi (2.70).

Madison Bumgarner’s is 3.89, but for most of the season it hovered closer to where Davies’ FIP currently is, so, think of it this way — the Giants will be facing someone as flexibly dominant / hittable as Madison Bumgarner. It won’t be easy, but they might be able to get to him.

Prediction

The Giants will make a trade this weekend.