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Top 25 Baseball Stories of 2018 — No. 8: Christian Yelich goes from unhappy Marlin to MVP

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We’re a few short days away from 2019 so it’s a good time to look back at the top 25 baseball stories of 2018. Some of them took place on the field, some of them off the field and some of them were more akin to tabloid drama. No matter where the story broke, however, these were the stories baseball fans were talking about most this past year.

This time last year Christian Yelich was not where he wanted to be. He was 26 years-old — in the middle of his prime — but he was stuck on a Miami Marlins team that had no interest whatsoever in contending in 2018. New owners Bruce Sherman and Derek Jeter had shipped off All-Star outfielder Giancarlo Stanton, second baseman Dee Gordon and outfielder Marcell Ozuna, leaving Yelich and catcher J.T. Realmuto as the only two threats in the lineup. Yelich wanted out, and reports were that his relationship with the Marlins was “irretrievably broken.”

In late January that relationship came to an end, as Yelich was traded to the Brewers in exchange for Lewis Brinson, Isan Diaz, Monte Harrison, and Jordan Yamamoto. Brinson has yet to break the Mendoza line in parts of two big league seasons and the others are still working their way up from the minors so we don’t know how they’ll do. We do know what Yelich did after coming over to the Brewers, however.

Specifically, he led the National League with a .326 batting average, a .598 slugging percentage, and a 1.000 OPS. He also put up a .402 on-base percentage with 36 home runs, 110 RBI, 118 runs scored, and 22 stolen bases while playing above-average defense in the outfield. Yelich hit for the cycle twice in 2018, on August 29 and September 17.

His strong finish helped propel the Brewers to the NL Central crown, thanks in part to his 3-for-4 day against the Cubs in the game 163 tiebreaker. Yelich would reach base eight times in 14 plate appearances in the Brewers’ NLDS sweep of the Rockies. His bat would go quiet as Milwaukee fell to Los Angeles in the NLCS, but everyone has a bad week once in a while. Yelich’s season would end with the National League MVP Award, finishing in first place on 29 of the 30 ballots cast.

From discontent to division champ to MVP. It was a heck of a year for Christian Yelich.

No, the Astros aren’t being targeted for HBPs in spring training

Alex Bregman
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On Wednesday, Astros third baseman Alex Bregman was hit by Cardinals pitcher Ramon Santos. It marked the seventh time an Astros batter had been hit in spring training exhibition games thus far, the highest total among all teams. As expected, teams are exacting revenge for the Astros’ cheating ways!

Well, not quite. The pitch Santos hit Bregman with was a 3-2 breaking ball that got away. Usually, if a pitcher is going to hit a batter as an act of revenge, he’ll attempt to do it with a first-pitch fastball.

José Altuve was also hit by a pitch against the Tigers on Sunday. The pitch, which looks to be the off-speed variety, appeared to graze his uniform as opposed to hitting him flush, so it was likely unintentional on the part of pitcher Nick Ramirez.

Other Astros to have been hit in spring training thus far: Alex De Goti, Aledmys Díaz, Osvaldo Duarte, Dustin Garneau, and Jake Meyers. Not exactly a who’s-who list of Code Breaker operatives.

Will some pitchers intentionally throw at the Astros this year? Almost certainly, despite commissioner Rob Manfred’s warning. Have they been doing it from the moment exhibition games began earlier this month? Certainly not.