Of all the things that have gone wrong for the Yankees at some point in 2021, the one we may not have seen coming is perhaps the most consequential.
After MVP-level seasons in 2019 and 2020, DJ LeMahieu has been thoroughly ‘meh’ for the Yankees. Not bad! He came into Saturday’s action sporting a league average 102 wRC+, which is…fine. But after the last two seasons, after re-signing for a long time and good money, it’s hard to call his 2021 campaign anything but a disappointment.
LeMahieu’s job in the Yankee lineup is certainly not to hit for power; that’s not really his game and as the leadoff hitter, he doesn’t need to do that. But considering he put up ISOs of .191 and .226 in the last two years, one around .100 is pretty bad. Were he racking up hits like he normally does, it would be more acceptable. However, he’s hitting just about .265 for the year, which looks bad for him and makes a lack of power that much worse. Even though the numbers look alright–he’s in no worse than the 69th percentile for average exit velocity (76), max exit velocity (75), and hard hit percentage (69)–it just feels like the good contact isn’t here. Perhaps that’s something that has more to do with results than process?
In 2021, DJ has a .570 wOBA on line drives. That’s great! Compared to 2019-20, though, it’s relatively low. On line drives across those two seasons, his wOBA was .684. Another number that looks great in isolation is his .598 wOBA on barreled balls and solid contact. But, again, compared to 2019-20’s mark–.990 (!!!!)–it looks paltry. He’s hitting the ball hard enough, it seems, but it’s just not falling like it used to.
To be fair, 2019 and 2020 were the best years of his career, even counting the year he wont he batting title in Colorado. It’s unfair to expect him to produce at that level every single time. But it needs to be better than this. Take a look below at his wOBA chart for 2021.
Those numbers in the zone are not good. For one reason or another, he’s not getting good results on pitches he should be doing damage to and that’s frustrating. Now, wOBA is gonna skew towards power and that’s not really LeMahieu’s game. Maybe his batting average chart looks a little better?
That’s certainly looking better, but seeing .268 down the middle is disappointing, as is .289 middle-away for a guy who’s very good at hitting to right field. And, like we did with those contact numbers above, we’ve gotta compare this to the last two years:
So much more red! Compared to this year’s chart, 2019-20 were practically like the elevators in The Shining!
In his job as a table-setter this year, LeMahieu hasn’t exactly put out the fine china. That’s not to say he’s put out paper plates, either, but it’s a lot closer to that than the good stuff we’re used to from him. There is, however, still a month left to play and a bat as talented as his could get going with little or no warning. Hopefully in a month, when he’s crushing it in the playoffs, we can look back at this post and laugh.