Last January, Christian Yelich got the call. The 27-year-old outfielder was told he would be trading in the sunny beaches of Miami for the industrial cityscape of Milwaukee. His offseason would include meeting new teammates, getting accustomed to a new area, and impressing new fans.
Little did the public know, these weren’t the only adjustments Yelich had planned for the upcoming year.
During his debut season in Milwaukee, Yelich took a giant leap in his journey from standout high school prospect to arguably the best player in baseball. He finished with a stellar .326 batting average, smashed 36 homers, and drove in 110 runs. His statistical performance was so impressive that he easily took home the coveted MVP award, finishing in first place on 29 of 30 ballots cast.
Yelich’s improvements didn’t come with any changes to his swing. Instead, he credits his breakout year to completely redefining his mentality at the plate.
“I didn’t really make any mechanical adjustments,” Yelich said. “It was more just targeting what I wanted to do and staying disciplined in a routine every day. Flush out whatever happened the night before and stay locked in on what you’re trying to do that day.”
To say Yelich was locked in is an understatement. During the second half of the 2018 season, he smacked 25 home runs and posted an insane 1.219 OPS, resulting in his second career Silver Slugger award.
Although Yelich’s production at the plate was second to none, he’d rather reminisce on the special moments he shared with his teammates rather than boast about individual accolades.
“My favorite memory from this past year is when we played in Chicago to win the division,” Yelich said. “That was the culmination of everybody’s hard work from spring training. We had this goal to win the division, make the playoffs, and we were all able to accomplish that together as team.”
That focus on team camaraderie over individual success coupled with Yelich’s genuine love for baseball shaped the player that he is today. He even reminds himself to occasionally step back from the grind and appreciate the game that’s given him so much.
“You have to just enjoy the game and realize how fortunate you are,” Yelich said. “You can get so caught up in the pressure and wanting to perform that you lose sight of the fact that it was always your dream to play in the big leagues.”
Make no mistake, Yelich’s gratitude should not be confused with complacency. He’s gotten a taste of the postseason and is ready to return next year with championship aspirations.
“I’m looking forward to being back with the guys and chasing that goal of winning a championship,” Yelich said. “I think the fact that we got so close last year gives us that drive and hunger to get back there and experience those feelings all over again.”
As the reigning MVP gets back to the grind of chasing a championship, Yelich will rely on the gear that performs as well as he does. Find Eastbay’s collection of premier baseball equipment here.
Earlier this month Major League Baseball announced Rookie of the Year winners Rangers closer Neftali Feliz and San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey. Today the final announcement was made in naming some of the other players to collect some hardware for the trophy cabinet over the 2010 season, most of whom have been regulars in our MLB Watch coverage.
While Buster Posey may be on his way to an upcoming Eastbay catalog cover, another player to receive an award this year made an appearance earlier this year. Cincinnati Reds slugger Joey Votto had a career year leading the Cincinnati Reds into the postseason for the first time in 15 years. Votto finished up the season with a batting average of .324, 37 home runs, and 113 runs batted in. The down-to-earth first basemen grabbed all but one vote in this year’s National League MVP voting. Votto led the Reds in nearly every statistical category at the plate including, batting average, home runs, runs batted in, on-base percentage, hits, runs, and slugging percentage.
In the American League the Texas Rangers continued to have a storied season. After the team’s first ever World Series appearance and rookie Neftali Feliz winning Rookie of the Year honors, outfielder Josh Hamilton was announced as the American League’s Most Valuable Player. Hamilton led the team to the World Series on the offensive side, batting .359 with 32 home runs, 186 hits and .411 on-base percentage. Hamilton also finished second on the team in runs with 95, and was above all other Rangers players with a .633 slugging percentage.
In what many had named as the Year of the Pitcher, the Cy Young Award winners were as expected for most. Although voting had finished before Roy Halladay was near perfect in his postseason debut, it wasn’t really a surprise that the right-hander was named as the NL Cy Young winner. With Halladay’s perfect game against the Marlins in May as the high point, his performance really never had any kind of slow this season. Halladay went 21-10 with a 2.44 ERA racking up 219 strikeouts along the way. He led the league in wins and was best in baseball in innings pitched with 250 2/3, shutouts with 4 and complete games with 9.
In the American League, Seattle Mariners hurler Felix Hernandez grabbed 21 out of the possible 28 votes to win his first Cy Young Award. Hernadez despite pitching for a Mariners team with a lackluster offense was dominant all season. Hernandez finished with an ERA of 2.24 and 249 2/3 innings pitched, both of which were tops in the American League. He also led the AL in quality starts and batting average against. Hernandez struck out 232 batters over the season and threw 6 complete games for the Mariners.
The Texas Rangers used post-season Superman in disguise Cliff Lee’s nearly un-hittable pitching to grab a 2-1 lead over the Yankees and then followed it up with an offensive onslaught to further their lead in the series in Game 4. Yankee Stadium looked like the home-run derby on Tuesday and unfortunately for the Yankees and their fans the only player in pinstripes to participate in the slug fest was Robinson Cano. Cano started it off giving the Yankees an early lead in the first inning. However when it was all said and done the Rangers blasted 4 home runs, 2 by slugger Josh Hamilton, 1 from Bengie Molina and the icing on the cake, a 421-foot shot by Nelson Cruz in the 9th inning, to defeat the Yankees 10-3. The Rangers will now look to advance to the World Series for the first time in franchise history Wednesday afternoon in New York.
In the National League, the San Francisco Giants took a 2-1 lead in the series against the Philadelphia Phillies behind a strong pitching outing from right-hander Matt Cain. Cain threw 7 innings giving up only 2 hits on Tuesday to continue San Francisco’s impressive post-season pitching. On the mound for the Phillies was Cole Hamels who also pitched well but the Giants seem to have found the NLCS MVP in outfielder Cody Ross. Ross has come up big throughout the post-season but has gone 4-9 with 3 home runs and 4 runs batted in against Philadelphia. The Giants will host the Phillies again on Wednesday for Game 4 of the best of seven series.
Check out some of the images from the recent games.
Cliff Lee was nearly un-hittable wearing the Nike Zoom Coop V.
Josh Hamilton makes his home run trot wearing Franklin Carbon Fibre II batting gloves.
Vladimir Guerrero wearing the adidas Diamond King.
Tommy Hunter pitches wearing the Under Armour Natural II.
A.J. Burnett wasn’t able to shut down the Rangers offense in the Nike Air Max MVP.
Lance Berkman swings wearing the Under Armour Ignite Low.
Robinson Cano brought out another Player Exclusive this time the Nike Air Huarache LWP90.
Ryan Howard unveiled another Player Exclusive colorway of the adidas Diamond King.
Jimmy Rollins bats wearing the Nike Air Max Diamond Elite Player Exclusive away colorway.
Cole Hamels pitches wearing the adidas Diamond King.
Aubrey Huff singles wearing the Nike Shox Fuse 2.
Matt Cain throws wearing the Mizuno Pro GMP11 glove.
Brian Wilson’s Sharpie work seems to be holding up nicely and isn’t costing him anything now.
In both the American League Championship Series and the National League Championship Series, the visiting team got out in front first. The Yankees mounted one of the most impressive comebacks in recent post-season history in Game 1. While the pitching match-up we all expected in the National League was sprinkled with home runs.
For the Philadelphia Phillies, Roy Oswalt grabbed a win in Game 2 to even the series and send it to San Francisco even at a game a piece. While in the American League, the Texas Rangers got their first post-season win at home to even out the playing field as the series now moves to the Bronx for Game 3.
If you’ve kept a close eye on the games, you probably spotted a handful of Player Exclusive colorways from adidas, Nike and Under Armour. Will we we see more PE colorways on the diamond over the next few games? Check back for the next edition of MLB Watch to find out.
Ryan Howard connects wearing the adidas Diamond King PE while Buster Posey looks on in Under Armour catcher’s gear.
Roy Oswalt was lights out wearing the Nike Zoom Coop V.
Jimmy Rollins came through wearing the Nike Air Max Diamond Elite PE.
Jonathan Sanchez throws wearing the Nike Shox Fuse 2 and Rawlings Mark of a Pro glove.
Cody Ross has homers wearing the Nike Air Show Elite 2.
Pablo Sandoval with some Under Armour Player Exclusives that could have him fined like Brian Wilson.
A good look at Colby Lewis’ Wilson A2000 glove.
Ian Kinsler digs his way to make a tough play in Mizuno 9-Spike cleats.
Phil Hughes delivers wearing the Rawlings Pro Preferred glove.
A close up look at Derek Jeter’s Jordan batting gloves.
Robinson Cano has provided the Yankees offense in Nike Air Max Diamond Elite PEs.
This season has been labeled by countless people: “The Year of the Pitcher.”
Tonight, however, I think it’s safe to say that many of those people would agree, it might just be Roy Halladay’s season. After pitching for the Toronto Blue Jays for 12 seasons, Halladay got his wish to play for a team in the post-season this year. Remember, Halladay joined the Phillies after last season in a three-way deal that sent Cliff Lee to Seattle, who ironically also had a great start for the Rangers in the first day of the post-season action as they beat the Rays.
Regardless of where or who went to any other teams, it is safe to say that the Philadelphia Phillies got the best of one of the biggest trades in recent baseball history.
Halladay became the first player in history to throw a no-hitter in his post-season debut, and only Don Larsen in the 1956 World Series had ever thrown a no-hitter in the post-season before. Halladay led the Phillies to a 4-0 victory over the Cincinnati Reds in Game 1 of the series.
This year, Halladay will inevitably add his second Cy Young Award to his shelves. His first came in 2003 when Halladay went 22-7 with a 3.25 ERA and 204 strikeouts. This year, his first in the National League, Halladay has been even better.
On May 29th, he threw a perfect game against Florida, only the second in Phillies history. Halladay’s magic has baffled hitters all season. The Phillies ace finished at 21-10, but set a career high in strikeouts with 219. He also posted one near-bests in innings pitched with 250.2, second only to his first Cy Young season in 2003, as well as in ERA with an impressive 2.44 this season, second only to his 2.41 in 2005.
Wednesday’s game was more of Roy’s dominance. There wasn’t even much of a well-hit ball against him, and he tallied eight strikeouts, missing a perfect game by just one walk given up in the fifth inning. Halladay threw just 104 pitches, 79 of which were strikes. The right-hander threw a first pitch strike to 25 of the 28 batters he faced. The exclamation point came with a solid play from his partner behind the plate, Carlos Ruiz, who made a nice play on a Brandon Phillips’ barely tapped ground ball.
Now we all know that Cy Young Awards are won during the regular season, but really, could this season be anyone but Roy Halladay’s?
images via yahoo