Los Angeles – in every city Brewers visit, christian yelich Knows the question is coming.

“The ‘what’s different this year’ question,” the resurgent former MVP said Wednesday at Dodger Stadium, hours before throwing three balls at speeds in excess of 99 mph.

For the first time in years, Yelich is again the guiding force of Milwaukee’s offense. He is the only qualified player on his team with an OPS over .800, the offensive engine propelling the Brewers to their third division title in the last six years. While he hasn’t quite recaptured his status as one of the top sluggers in the game, Yelich has made a remarkable jump at the plate after three surprisingly mediocre seasons, which is why he gets the same question. is harassed in some form. he just heard it angel and will hear it later this week Texas (Saturday’s game will air on FS1 at 4:05 p.m. ET).

Still, that doesn’t make the answer any easier.

Sure, there were mechanical changes, the most obvious of which was switching from leg kicks to toe taps in an effort to find the right timing at the plate. He believes he has given up some bad habits and is feeling better physically than he has in recent years. But describing how she found her rhythm is complex and layered. Even for Yelich, it’s hard to give a specific, all-encompassing explanation for his bounce-back 2023 season — or the tough times before.

Yelich told Fox Sports, “I wasn’t playing at an MVP level, but if that’s the standard, you’ve got a lot of disappointing seasons.” “Obviously, I should have done better than what I was doing. But I mean, you just have to do it. You have to be yourself. You still have to have a positive attitude, be confident that things are going to change.”

After matching the highest slugging percentage and OPS in Brewers history in 2019 and leading the franchise to its first back-to-back playoff appearances since the early 80s, Milwaukee signed him to a nine-year deal worth $215 million. Gave an extension

From then on, the outfielder’s performance declined dramatically. Over the last three years — including the shortened 2020 season — Yelich hit around league average, hitting fewer home runs than in his 2018 or 2019 seasons alone.

Manager Craig Council said, “When you sign the contract, you feel it.”

Injuries played a role in Yelich’s slump, particularly to his lower back. At times, he looked more passive at the plate. In 2020, he moved less and whizzed more than ever before in his career. From there his slugging percentage steadily declined, resulting in the two worst offensive seasons of his career in 2021 (.736 OPS) and 2022 (.738).

“It was tough for him,” bench coach Pat Murphy told Fox Sports. “He took it personally because he felt a responsibility to the organization, to the fans. He feels it. It’s real.”

Without Yelich’s usual production, the Brewers’ light-hitting offense finished with one of the nine worst batting averages in baseball in each of the last three seasons. And after reaching the National League Championship Series in 2018, the Brewers have not been able to advance beyond the NLDS.

It was Yelich’s sadness, not the peak of his 2018 MVP season or the extraordinary 2019 season, which included 44 homers and 30 steals ā€” numbers that likely would have been far higher if he hadn’t fractured his knee cap in September ā€” when The Brewers learned the most about their star outfielder.

Those around Yelich appreciated his positivity through struggles. He didn’t let despair get the better of him. His coaches and teammates noticed an unchanging demeanor in the clubhouse, always with a smile on his face. Even during the worst of times, Yelich always seemed able to find his form again.

“You just have to keep going,” Yelich said, looking for a way to contribute. “You spend a lot of nights out there and just have to find a way to make it work.”

Even as his numbers dwindled, he still wanted to post. Yelich played in 58 of the Brewers’ 60 games in 2020. After being limited in the first half of the 2021 season due to a back strain, he returned after the All-Star break to play in 58 of 60 games. Last year, although unable to achieve anything like his previous form, he only missed eight games.

Murphy said, “He didn’t exonerate himself, never made an excuse.” “He was hurting. He didn’t like reading or hearing things, and he stuck to that. I’m telling you, he showed who he was, how he moved on after that, and I’m more than happy for him.” He couldn’t have been looking for a slightly better place to live.”

Now, he is seeing the fruits of that persistence.

Success, Brewers hitting coach Connor Dawson said, leaves clues. Yelich and the Brewers’ staff dissect videos from earlier in his career to see if there is anything they can take away, but Yelich also views each season as its own separate entity. He knows that trying to chase his 2018 and 2019 production could lead to more trouble. What works in one year may not work the next year. What seems right at the beginning of a year may not seem right till the end of the year. Each season requires different adjustments.

This year, his second with Dawson and co-hitting coach Ozzie Timmons, Yelich said he doesn’t feel like he’s finding that much at the plate. When things “fall to the side,” he feels more prepared to find solutions. He talks to Dawson after each at-bat. Over time, his faith and understanding developed. Sometimes, the outfielder wants more information. At other times, Dawson knows when to keep the assessment simple: “Good swing or bad swing.” This is the most confidence and confidence Dawson has seen in Yelich in his time with him.

“It’s just building those blocks up,” Dawson said. “I think last year those building blocks were a little more scattered. He was looking this way for one place and the other way for that. This year, it’s like it’s all on the same road, like a The dog is picking something out of a spot. The line – “I got this, I got this, I got this” – it builds up over time and puts him in a really good spot.

While Yelich is nowhere close to repeating his peak form – in 2019, he became the first player since Larry Walker to win consecutive NL batting titles. of rocks In 1998-99 – he closely resembles the player the Brewers acquired marlins before the 2018 season. He’s hitting 27 percent better than league average, with his OPS nearly 100 points higher than the previous two years.

His strikeout rate is below his career standard. He is mashing the fastball (.335 average, .571 slugging percentage) at his best rate since 2019. Perhaps most importantly, he remained on the field, playing in 117 of the Brewers’ 121 games.

“Everyone longs for the day of the lightbulb,” said the counsel. “The best way to have a lightbulb day is to show up every day and keep at it. It’s like staying in a fight.”

Yelich’s increased numbers, along with the Brewers’ formidable pitching staff, help explain how a team with a bottom-five attack still manages to top the NL Central.

Although he’s not playing at a superstar level yet, he’s still a star for Milwaukee, a skilled lightbody for a team with one of the youngest player groups in the game. Seven different rookie infielders have pitched for the Brewers this year. He’s seen how the two-time All-Star handled relative failure, kept moving forward and provided insight along the way.

Yelich wants the rookies to be allowed to play and figure things out on their own, but he makes himself available. for 23 years Bryce TurangStaying up late in the clubhouse gave Yelich an opportunity to learn about hitting and mindset. for 24 years joey wimmerYelich’s best advice revolves around how to handle yourself as a big leaguer.

Wiemer said, “He’s the best thing to play with, he’s a former MVP, but he’s a human being.” “Absolutely a nice man, doesn’t admire anybody, doesn’t think he is better than anybody.”

Of course, the last few years were disappointing. Yelich hasn’t been an All-Star since 2019. Since 2020, he has ranked as the 71st most valuable position player in the game based on wins above replacement. But this year looks different. His leadership and production have helped the Brewers retain first place entering Friday in two games. reds And cub,

Still only 31 years old, he is giving glimpses of what was, and raising questions about what may yet be.

“I clearly know that from now on for the rest of my career, every season I have will be compared to 2018 and 2019, and, ‘Can you be that same version of yourself again?'” Yelich said. “There’s really nothing you can do except keep going.”

rowan kavner Covers the Dodgers and MLB as a whole for Fox Sports. He was previously the Dodgers’ editor of digital and print publications. follow him on twitter @rowankavner,

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