For most of 2019 there has been nothing to separate the two outfielders, who are both having historic years and keeping pace with one another. Here we will try to separate the two with just over a month of the regular season remaining.
Yelich 6.5 fWAR, 6 bWAR
Bellinger 7 fWAR, 8.2 bWAR
Wins above Replacement has become the most useful all-encompassing stat for determining the value of a player and the first place to look when considering the MVP.
Bellinger has a small lead in the Fangraphs version of WAR but a big lead in baseball reference WAR due to superior defensive metrics and the way each site calculates the statistic. This shows how much more value Bellinger has had defensively and why he is the front runner.
Yelich – .333/.424/.693, 1.117 OPS, 41 HR, 89 RBI, 24 SB, 174 wRC+, 181 OPS+,
Bellinger – .320/.418/.673, 1.091 OPS, 42 HR, 100 RBI, 10 SB, 174 wRC+, 182 OPS+,
The numbers are incredibly similar. Yelich has the upper hand in OPS, but the advanced stats show that they have been almost identical when considering park factors (Miller Park is considered more friendly to hitters than Dodger Stadium).
The offensive WARs of Yelich and Bellinger are 6.2 and 5.9 respectively, showing once again that they are impossible to separate with the bat.
While most writers are unlikely to give too much weight to Runs Batted In as it is more dependent on the rest of the team than individual skill, there is nothing between the two as hitters at this stage.
Yelich – 1.9 UZR/150, -2 DRS, -0.7 Defensive WAR playing RF and CF,
Bellinger – 14.7 UZR/150, 20 DRS, 1.8 Defensive WAR playing 1B, RF and CF
Defence is where Bellinger takes his lead over Yelich. With so little between the two offensively, this is where Bellinger gains his 2 BR Wins Above Replacement.
He is not just considerably better than Yelich, he is 2nd in the Majors in both UZR/150 and DRS, whilst also offering versatility by playing 22 games at first base. He also has an unbelievable arm as shown here against the Mets:
Yelich’s metrics are around average which would be fine if he wasn’t up against the best defensive right fielder in baseball.
Is Most Valuable the same as best player? In a race this tight, the fact that the Dodgers have been leading the NL West all season whilst the Brewers are just two games above 500 and in a fight for a NL wildcard will be considered.
The Dodgers having more good players shouldn’t penalise Yelich for an individual award, but whilst it’s named Most Valuable this is an argument that some will use.
That there are two people who can reasonably claim to be as good as Mike Trout this season is remarkable, and both historic seasons deserve recognition. However only one will be the MVP and with six weeks left, both players will know that if they can just pull away with the bat from the other, they will probably win the award. Right now though, defence gives Cody Bellinger the edge.
Stats correct on 21/8/2019
For definitions of all the stats go to https://blogs.fangraphs.com/glossary/