St. Louis Cardinals: Pitching to Yelich isn’t the problem
Christian Yelich has been killing the St. Louis Cardinals this season, and many fans are clamoring to pitch around him. However, I for one am not on board with that yet.
As far as I am concerned, the issue with Christian Yelich for this team is simple: the St. Louis Cardinals are just not executing against him. A player of Yelich’s caliber will make you pay for all the easy opportunities that you give him, and the Cardinals have unfortunately given him plenty already over the teams’ first few series.
Now I will admit that not all of the pitches that Yelich has hit off the Cardinals this season have been meatballs or balls set on a tee, but there have been a sizable amount that would simply be a bad pitch to throw to any professional hitter, much less the reigning NL MVP on a divisional rival team.
To emphasize this point, let’s take a look at the homers that Yelich has hit against the St. Louis Cardinals so far in 2019. Let me warn you, this may be hard to look at.
That’s…not good. The Cardinals are for the most part leaving the ball in the wheel house for Yelich to just wail on. Most professional hitters will be able to convert when you leave pitches like that for them, and better players will make you pay even worse for your mistakes.
However, there is another side to this. The highest batting average in the modern era is .406 by Ted Williams in 1941, and that number is considered legendary and almost unbreakable. The highest single season batting average over the past 20 years is .376 by Larry Walker in 1999. So, hitting over .350, or 7 hits in every 20 at-bats, is considered among the greats.
My point? No matter who you are, hitting a baseball is still really hard, and you will fail more than you succeed no matter who you are. While this point is a general constant in baseball, that applies only so long as the pitchers execute. If elite players who are used to being pitched to the corners see pitch after pitch come down their sweet spot, chances are they will hit the ball well.
I am not asking for Cardinals relievers to paint the corners at an elite level or anything like that, because that’s like asking an ostrich to fly. However, my problem is that if you are going to miss, don’t miss over the heart of the plate like you have at least 6 times already this season. If you want to consider that “not pitching to Yelich”, then sure, avoid Yelich all you want.
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But this isn’t Barry Bonds just yet, and even the high fastballs are good pitches for sluggers to rake if they see it coming, so the St. Louis Cardinals shouldn’t give up on Yelich just yet and resign to walking him. The Cardinals should try to encourage grounders against Yelich, which means keeping the ball low and missing in the dirt.
Sure, there are situations that Yelich probably should have been pitched around or intentionally walked, in particular with multiple men on base and late in games where one swing can greatly affect the outcome of the game. However, to just resign to pitching around him at all times is something that no one has really earned since Barry Bonds, and something that hasn’t been earned by Yelich, despite his torrid start against the Cardinals.
If Christian Yelich continues this trend against execution that can’t be complained about, then the option to pitch around Yelich entirely becomes one that should be considered. However, the next step at this current time is not to pitch around Yelich. If the St. Louis Cardinals cannot execute against Yelich, they won’t be able to get too far anyway, so the growth of the 2019 Cardinals starts with executing pitches against Yelich and other top tier hitters.