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Turning Back the Clock to 2019
The reemergence of two stars
The year 2019 seems like ages ago when it comes to the MLB. A time before COVID, the pitch clock, and even the runner on second extra innings rule. To put this in perspective, in 2019, baseball’s savior, Shohei Ohtani, hadn’t even made his first All-Star team yet. If some of your memories are hazy, the players who ran the league in 2019 were two corner outfielders from the National League: Cody Bellinger and Christian Yelich. After both players had outstanding 2019 outings, they became borderline irrelevant for the following seasons, until now.
After Cody Bellinger’s impressive 2017 Rookie of the Year-winning year, it was clear that the 21-year-old OF was the future of the league. He followed up that ROY season with a solid 2018 and an all-time MVP-winning season in 2019. In 2019, Bellinger had a .305 AVG, 1.035 OPS, and 167 OPS+ to go along with 47 HR. Bellinger also took home Gold Glove and Silver Slugger honors that season as well. Despite an impressive first three seasons in the league, Bellinger’s next three were not as fruitful. During the three seasons from 2020–2022, Bellinger had a batting average of .203, an OPS+ of only 75, and hit a mere 41 HR in 295 total games for the LA Dodgers. After 2022, Bellinger was granted Free Agency and opted to sign a one-year, $17.5 million deal with the Chicago Cubs. The change of scenery has been an absolute game changer for Bellinger so far. Through 68 games, the lefty slugger is batting .319 with 14 HR and a 145 OPS+. Bellinger is turning back the clock with his new club and has certainly earned himself a new contract when he hits free agency again.
After spending the first five seasons of his career in Miami, Yelich was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers in 2018, where he experienced a breakout season. Yelich went from a fringe All-Star player to possibly the best hitter in all of baseball. In his first season in Milwaukee, Yelich had a .326 AVG, 1.000 OPS, and 164 OPS+, leading the MLB in all of those categories. Yelich also knocked 36 HR and tallied 22 SB in his MVP-winning season. Yelich followed up his historic 2018 campaign with an amazing 2019. Yelich again led all of the MLB in AVG (.329), OPS (1.100), and OPS+ (179). This time around, despite hitting 44 HR and stealing 30 bases, Yelich only finished 2nd in MVP voting (Because of Cody Bellinger). In a similar fashion to Bellinger, Yelich was unable to replicate his 2019 success in the following three seasons. From 2020–2022, Yelich hit only 35 HR and had a .243 AVG and a mere 106 OPS+ in over 300 games. However, just like Bellinger, Yelich has found his groove in 2023. He is hitting .288, with a 132 OPS+, and has tallied 14 HR and 22 SB in his first 96 games of the season. Yelich isn’t quite in his 2018–2019 form just yet, but it is nice to see the former MVP playing good ball again.