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Christian Yelich is an outlier

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Among those "similar" to him, Yelich is different in some interesting ways.

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Marlins have been an interesting team this offseason. They are wheeling with players. They are dealing with players. They are handing out money to players, both free agents and their own. They are trying to hand out more money to their own players, one of whom is Christian Yelich. Yelich has a most interesting offensive profile.

I'll show you some data on his walk and strikeout rates, his batted ball rates, and his production by batted ball type as recorded by FanGraphs. That'll give you a better sense of how Yelich stacks up against the league. 100 is average, less than 100 means he did less of the thing, and greater than 100 means he did more of the thing.

Season Rel K Rel BB
2013 122 144
2014 102 139

Yelich walks more than the league average, but he also strikes out more than the league average. In 2014, he was able to cut his strikeout rate by quite a bit while maintaining his walk rate. Aces.

Season Rel LD Rel GB Rel FB Rel IFFB Rel HR/FB
2013 108 142 40 0 159
2014 102 136 52 14 121

Yelich is slightly above league average on his line drive rate, but the real story is everything else. Yelich hits a ton of ground balls and very few fly balls. Because he hits so few fly balls, he basically never pops up (IFFB). He has one infield fly ball/pop up in his MLB career. That's Joey Votto territory.

You might see the ground ball rate and think Yelich is powerless, and then you notice his relative HR/FB numbers. Yelich is way above average there, though there was a sharp decline from 2013 to 2014. It's possible that as the league gets him figured out, his HR/FB could decline further. Or it's possible that his approach is advanced enough that he'll sit above the league average for awhile. We'll see.

Observe Yelich's production by batted ball type. PRD is calculated by (1.7*BA+SLG)/(1.7*lgBA+lgSLG)*100.

Season FB Rel PRD LD Rel PRD GB Rel PRD
2013 174 107 120
2014 171 94 110

Wait, what? Yelich crushes fly balls. That doesn't make sense. Yelich is supposed to be part of a group of light-hitting outfielders. The ground ball numbers make sense at least.

To get a sense of how he compares to his peers, I looked for current active roster players like him. I was thinking of high BABIP, high GB%, low ISO types. The actual numbers by which I chose to filter were arbitrary, but here they are anyway: at least a .320 career BABIP, at least a 45% ground ball rate, an ISO less than .130, at least 500 career plate appearances, and being an outfielder. Here are those players.

Name PA BB% K% ISO BABIP AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ WAR
Denard Span 4001 8.6% 11.6% 0.106 0.320 0.286 0.352 0.392 0.331 105 22.1
Michael Bourn 4428 8.4% 20.9% 0.095 0.342 0.269 0.333 0.364 0.311 92 21.8
Brett Gardner 2864 10.0% 18.6% 0.125 0.321 0.265 0.346 0.390 0.329 103 21
Jon Jay 2424 6.8% 15.8% 0.102 0.345 0.295 0.359 0.396 0.335 112 11.6
Lorenzo Cain 1369 6.0% 20.9% 0.113 0.345 0.279 0.326 0.392 0.316 98 10.3
Gerardo Parra 3044 6.7% 17.2% 0.121 0.322 0.274 0.326 0.395 0.313 90 9.9
Gregor Blanco 2244 11.2% 19.3% 0.087 0.322 0.257 0.344 0.344 0.311 96 9.1
Craig Gentry 1021 7.1% 17.0% 0.073 0.333 0.273 0.346 0.346 0.311 91 9
Ben Revere 2026 4.2% 9.1% 0.048 0.321 0.291 0.324 0.340 0.295 84 7.3
Juan Lagares 873 4.6% 21.0% 0.105 0.326 0.262 0.302 0.368 0.294 89 6.7
Leonys Martin 1151 6.2% 20.1% 0.110 0.325 0.264 0.316 0.375 0.305 87 5.9
Christian Yelich 933 10.8% 21.8% 0.116 0.363 0.285 0.365 0.400 0.341 116 5.7
Adam Eaton 918 8.1% 15.5% 0.108 0.333 0.281 0.350 0.390 0.330 106 2.9
Brock Holt 636 6.9% 18.2% 0.089 0.333 0.274 0.324 0.363 0.306 91 1.6
Anthony Gose 616 7.6% 27.6% 0.098 0.328 0.234 0.301 0.332 0.285 75 1.5
Willie Bloomquist 3064 6.1% 15.7% 0.074 0.320 0.272 0.319 0.346 0.296 79 1.5
Brandon Barnes 863 4.8% 29.7% 0.123 0.334 0.242 0.286 0.365 0.288 74 1.2

Gardner might not fit this list anymore because of recent changes in his approach to yield more power. You could argue Willie Bloomquist doesn't fit as well. This is mostly a group of Yelich's peers, though. Yelich has one of the highest walk rates, one of the highest ISOs, the highest BABIP, the highest OBP, the highest SLG, the highest wOBA, and the highest wRC+. It's possible that my arbitrary filter criteria were wrong. I just selected for a bunch of players who are mostly worse than Yelich. Or perhaps that is an indication of how good Yelich is right now. View their batted ball rates.

Name GB/FB LD% GB% FB% IFFB% HR/FB
Christian Yelich 3.70 21.7% 61.6% 16.7% 1.0% 12.7%
Brandon Barnes 1.51 20.7% 47.6% 31.6% 10.7% 10.1%
Gerardo Parra 2.02 20.8% 52.9% 26.3% 4.6% 7.2%
Jon Jay 2.33 24.1% 53.1% 22.8% 4.5% 7.0%
Leonys Martin 1.81 21.7% 50.5% 27.9% 16.3% 7.0%
Anthony Gose 2.74 20.0% 58.6% 21.4% 7.9% 6.6%
Brett Gardner 1.46 20.5% 47.1% 32.4% 13.3% 6.5%
Lorenzo Cain 1.67 22.1% 48.8% 29.2% 10.8% 5.9%
Michael Bourn 2.26 21.1% 54.7% 24.2% 3.4% 4.4%
Adam Eaton 2.70 18.9% 59.2% 21.9% 4.8% 4.1%
Denard Span 2.02 21.4% 52.5% 26.0% 8.1% 4.0%
Juan Lagares 1.39 19.0% 47.1% 33.9% 8.7% 3.9%
Brock Holt 2.26 24.5% 52.4% 23.2% 4.7% 3.7%
Gregor Blanco 1.54 23.6% 46.3% 30.1% 9.2% 3.4%
Willie Bloomquist 1.62 21.9% 48.3% 29.8% 13.1% 2.6%
Craig Gentry 1.55 20.4% 48.3% 31.2% 8.3% 1.8%
Ben Revere 4.58 20.3% 65.4% 14.3% 3.4% 0.8%

Yelich is second only to Ben Revere in ground ball rate, yet his career HR/FB is the highest. Yelich also has the lowest IFFB%.

The point is this. Yelich fits into a group of slap-hitting, light offense, speedy outfielders. Yelich might be one of the most slap-hitting guys out of the bunch given his ground ball rate. Yet, he somehow maintains power. His HR/FB is really good, and he so far has destroyed the fly balls he has put in the air. He also seems to have much more plate discipline than his peers. A young player showing what appears to be an advanced approach at the plate while showing room to grow through a decreasing GB% and increasing FB%?

Yea, the Marlins should probably throw more money at him.

. . .

All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs.

Kevin Ruprecht is an Editor at Beyond the Box Score. He also writes at Royals Review. You can follow him on Twitter at @KevinRuprecht.