By: Chris Larson
The Milwaukee Brewers are a team with their eyes set on making it to October and have had plenty to cheer about so far this season. Currently, the team sits 1 and 1/2 games back from the division leading, Chicago Cubs, with a +38 run differential and a 66-51 record, but has enough talent to once again overtake first place, a position they sat in for a majority of the first half of the season.
Throughout this season, there has been plenty of exciting moments at Miller Park, as well as on the road, for the Brew Crew to cheer about and the chemistry continues to show on the field everyday. When you watch the Brewers play, you can tell they are all buying into the same goal, the same philosophy, and share the same passion for trying as hard as possible to bring a World Series Championship to the fine city of Milwaukee. The MLB season can be a long 162-game grind so why not make the best of it?
Among the exciting moments of the season and the fun chemistry that comes along with this years Brewers team, sit two players who have done more than their fair share of having an impact on the lineup this year in: Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich. Both outfielders were acquired this past offseason when Milwaukee was looking for ways to upgrade their roster - Cain via free agency and Yelich via trade from the Miami Marlins. Some might have predicted the impact that they would have on the field everyday, but many likely didn't think the impact would be this significant.
Let's start with Lorenzo Cain first, who is in the midst of his prime, and has always carried around the reputation of being one of the best outfielders in the game. At the moment, Cain is hitting: .296/.390/.418 over 426 plate appearances with 109 hits, 8 home runs, 30 RBI, 20 stolen bases, and 54 walks. When you look at that line, you might think to yourself, "Okay, what's so significant about that?" Well, when you start to dig a little deeper, things become even more impressive. Going into play today, Cain possesses a 4.2 WAR, which puts him 6th among qualified outfielders, or second among qualified centerfielders, Cain's primary position, behind the game's greatest player, Mike Trout.
In addition, Lorenzo Cain has also become a very disciplined hitter, as indicated by his walk rate so far this season. Currently, Cain ranks 10th among qualified outfielders with a 10.7 walk percentage, which is on pace to be Cain's highest walk percentage over his entire 9-year big league career. Even at 32 years old, Cain continues to make the necessary adjustments when he is up to the plate batting and the Brewers have benefitted greatly, by knowing there is a high chance that Cain will take a walk when it is necessary, which is a big reason why, Cain has either been in the first or second spot of the lineup for a majority of the season.
Beyond those terrific offensive numbers, Lorenzo Cain has also continued to be an elite defender in centerfield for the Brew Crew. Heading into play today, Cain currently ranks second among qualified outfielders with 19 Defensive Runs Saved, putting him behind only JaCoby Jones of the Detroit Tigers. Furthermore, let's take a look at Cain's Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) which is a stat used to measure the potential outcomes of fielding a play versus the outfielder's true ability to make that same play. Presently, Cain leads all outfielders in that category with a 9.7 UZR and in UZR Per 150 Games with a value of 18.3. Cain really developed a reputation of being an elite defender in Kansas City and it looks like he has carried those skills over with him to Milwaukee.
If Cain's impact impressed you, just wait until you start to see the impact that Christian Yelich has had on the Brewers lineup. So far this season, over 441 plate appearances, Yelich is hitting: .322/.383/.540 with 128 hits, 18 home runs, 60 RBI, 14 stolen bases, and 36 walks. In addition to those offensive numbers, Yelich goes into play today sporting a 4.2 WAR, which puts him behind his counterpart and the aforementioned, Lorenzo Cain, for 7th place among qualified outfielders. Combined, Cain and Yelich have a 8.6 WAR which is incredible!
In addition to that, Yelich has done an extremely good job during BABIP situations, as he currently leads outfielders in that category with a .391 value. That put's him ahead of guys like J.D. Martinez, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Mookie Betts! Beyond that, Yelich currently has a Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+) value of 146, good enough for 5th place among qualified outfielders, and don't sleep on his ability to run the bases either. Currently, Yelich has a Baserunning value of 5.7, putting him fourth place on the list, but up there with other speedy on-base guys including: Billy Hamilton of the Cincinnati Reds, Brett Gardner of the New York Yankees, and Eddie Rosario of the Minnesota Twins.
Over the past 28 days, Christian Yelich has been tearing it up at the plate and pushed himself into the conversation for the NL MVP Award even more. During that span, Yelich is hitting: .423/.451/.794 over 102 plate appearances with 41 hits, 11 doubles, 2 triples, 7 home runs, 18 RBI, 2 stolen bases, and 4 walks. In total, that gives Yelich a .507 BABIP and a tOPS+ (Player's Total OPS) value of 165. Incredible and just another reason why this trade continues to look better and better for the Milwaukee Brewers with each passing day.
While the Brewers might have a deluge of middle infielders now following the trades for Mike Moustakas and Jonathan Schoop at the trade deadline, that doesn't take away from the overwhelming contributions that both, Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich, have had so far this season on the team's lineup and playoff aspirations. The best qualities to like about both Cain and Yelich is that they have speed, they help to lengthen the Brewers lineup, and both possess grind on the baseball field everyday in the way that they play the game. In addition, both know how to be good teammates and display chemistry with the other 23 players in the clubhouse, a big reason why the Brewers are, where they are right now, in the standings.