Opinion: DJ LeMahieu is just that good

David John LeMahieu is the best offseason acquisition to come to the Yankees in 2019.  Fight me.

Honestly -- and before doing any research, I didn’t think I was alone in that opinion.  After doing the research, I found I was correct.  LeMahieu has played with the mindset of situational offense since he first arrived in the Bronx. But… he doesn’t solely stick to “small ball.”  He throws in a home run every now and then for good measure.

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Julio Cortez

To back up this opinion, let’s look first at some basic offensive stats.  LeMahieu is in his ninth season in MLB and a two-time All-Star.  His career high batting average comes in at .348, but just two months into the 2019 season, he’s already hovering around that career high -- currently hitting .317.  He’s 61-for-195, scoring 34 runs, five of which were home runs.  He’s logged 30 RBIs and has stolen two bases.

In looking at past seasons, LeMahieu has recorded respectable numbers, but his totals didn’t always rank so highly so early in the season.  In 2018, he’d recorded 62 RBIs.  Not even halfway through the 2019 season, he’s already about halfway to his previous season total.  Prior to 2018, he’s recorded similar numbers in the RBI department (64, 66, 61 in 2017, 2016 and 2015).  In 2017, LeMahieu only hit eight home runs on the season.  In 2019, he’s already logged five.  In 2018 and 17, LeMahieu stole six bases each year.  In 2019, he’s already stolen two. 

While LeMahieu has proven himself as a solid member of his team (especially during his All-Star seasons), he is on track to have 2019 stand out among his other seasons over the course of his career.  However, he also brings an important aspect of offensive strategy to the Yankees’ offense that, for all intents and purposes, did not exist in 2018 -- even with super sluggers like Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton in the lineup.  LeMahieu… hits with RISP, and he does it well.  And I'm not alone in that opinion, either. 
On the 2019 season, LeMahieu is 20-for-45 with RISP overall.  With RISP and two outs, he is 11-for-27.  And even with runners on base but not necessarily in scoring position, he is 28-for-70.  Out of those 20 hits that he’s recorded with RISP, none of those hits were home runs.  Let me say it louder for the people in the back: NONE of those hits were home runs!  He’s bringing runners home -- recording 22 RBIs with RISP to be exact -- on “small ball” hits. With runners aboard overall, he’s logged a total of 26 RBIs, leaving only four recorded without RISP.   So, he’s become the solution to the Yankees’ “Home Run or Bust” problem.  Honestly, they’ve never needed that solution more than they have this season… with a full roster’s worth of players on the IL.  

There are no stats to measure what is often referred to as “clutch hitting,” but, LeMahieu has proven that he quite literally steps up to the plate in not just situations with RISP, but also in go-ahead situations. 

“DJ does what DJ does best,” Aaron Boone told the New York Post on May 8, following a comeback victory against the Seattle Mariners.  LeMahieu was credited with the game-winning hit that resulted in 5-2 Yankees win, when they’d entered the ninth inning down 4-2.  With some help from Gio Urshela and Cameron Maybin in getting men on base, LeMahieu delivered.

So, we know that LeMahieu is a great hitter.  He doesn’t only hit home runs, but his stats aren’t as though he doesn’t hit them at all.  He’s not only emerging as a team leader on an underdog team down many key players, but, he’s solving a problem that’s a year old.  He’s having a banner year for himself, and not just for his team.  He comes in clutch in go-ahead situations.  Are we left to ask the question: why this year? 

Is there something truly special, on an emotional level, about coming from a lesser team like the Colorado Rockies to… the Yankees?  Is it "the Pinstripes?"  Is there just some overwhelming emotion about coming to bat at Yankee Stadium?  I’m willing to bet that there is, but stats won’t necessarily back that theory up.  There’s another possible theory, though; could it be batting order protection?

Each day that he was in the lineup in May, LeMahieu found himself in the leadoff spot.  It clearly worked for him; he was 32-for-99 on the month, with an average of .374.  Do the numbers have to do with LeMahieu’s talent, or, do they have to do with the fact that pitchers would rather pitch to him in the leadoff spot rather than anyone else in the lineup?  Often, Luke Voit would follow LeMahieu in the No. 2 spot.  Chances are, pitchers won’t want to pitch to Voit for fear that he’ll hit one right out of the park.  So, rather than pitch to him, they’ll pitch to LeMahieu instead.  However, while position in the batting order is important to look at, the stats speak louder volumes.

But… what about his fielding?  Well, he’s versatile in that department, too.  Before the season even started, before the Yankees were shipping players to the IL every week, Boone had a plan to move LeMahieu around, between playing both second and third base.  Now, what with big names in Miguel Andujar and Troy Tulowitzki on the IL, LeMahieu becomes a daily player in the field by default.  Not to mention, LeMahieu is a three-time Gold Glove winner, earning the honors in 2014, 2017 and 2018 at 2B. 

Photo Credit: The Athletic

In sum: while it’s difficult to determine why LeMahieu’s contributions to this team have outshined his numbers in previous years, it is safe to say that he’s truly been that good for the 2019 Yankees.  So good, in fact, that he's looking at a third chance to make the All-Star team.  Now… the next question is… what happens when Didi comes back?  That’s a story for another day a few weeks from now.  But if the above tweet is any indication, LeMahieu should be here to stay, as a mainstay, regardless. 

Article by: Mary Grace Donaldson


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