Before we get into anything else, I need to admit something: I was wrong about the DJ LeMahieu signing. I thought it wasn’t going to work out and said so. But then DJ LeMeahieu went on a tear that’s lasted pretty much all season. If you were going to make a case for him as team MVP, it wouldn’t be an outlandish one.
Through 52 games and 226 plate appearances, he’s hitting .314/.364/.456, good for a .351 wOBA and a 119 wRC+. The walk and power numbers–7.1 BB%, .142 ISO–are lowish, but so is his strikeout rate (13.3%) and his high contact profile at the plate gives him a dimension the Yankees have lacked, seemingly since Robinson Cano left the team.
The last time I wrote about DJLM, I wrote about his seemingly strange batted ball profile and how he was succeeding with it. At the time I wrote that piece, he was 28th in the Majors in average exit velocity. Now, he’s fifth among players with at least 170 batted ball events, clocking in at 91.7 MPH. Back then, he was in sixth place for batted balls at or above 95 MPH. Now he’s fourth with 83 and also in fourth for percentage of balls at or above 95 MPH (48%).
He’s still doing this all without hitting the ball overly far. His average batted ball distance–156 feet–is 28th out of 32 qualifiers. His average home run distance is also 28th out of 32 at 388 feet. These lowish marks aren’t much changed from last time, but like back then, they demonstrate that LeMahieu can be successful at the plate without hitting the ball far or walloping it over the fences. This is a stark contrast to the other players the Yankees have built their lineup around, like Luke Voit, Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge, and Giancarlo Stanton. Those guys hit the ball as hard as DJLM, just much farther. And that’s okay! There’s more than one way to be successful at the plate and his is just different than theirs; regardless of style, it’s worked so far.
All of these numbers say that LeMahieu has been as advertised (even if yours truly didn’t buy that advertisement at the time): a low-walk, low-strikeout, low-power, high-contact hitter. Given his great performance so far and his proclivity for timely hits, it’s hard to imagine the Yankees being as good as they are without him having been here. So far, this is another W for Brian Cashman and his front office team.