Since almost the start of his career, DJ LeMahieu has been an impact player. With Gold Glove honors in 2014, 2017 and 2018, All-Star selections in 2015 and 2017, and a National League batting title in 2016, when the Yankees acquired it in 2019, it was like if we had caught the NL’s best kept secret.
During the Next-Man-Up season of 2019, DJ has proven invaluable to New York City. When he sometimes felt like the Bombers could barely field a frontline team, LeMahieu was in 145 of 162 games and hit 0.327 / 0.375 / 0.518 with 197 hits, 33 doubles and 26 homers. He added “2019 All-Star” to his resume while finishing fourth in the AL MVP vote after the Yankees’ 103-winning season. Although 2020 was shortened by the pandemic, LeMahieu did his part to keep the pace going, winning the AL title at batting while also leading in OBP and OPS with a triple slash of .364 / .421 / .590, a 1.011 OPS. He also climbed to third place in the AL MVP vote this time around, a sign of all the respect he had around the game.
General manager Brian Cashman therefore looked like a genius for acquiring such an important roster, and when his contract ended in the offseason fans urged the organization to write a blank check. – everything to keep Le Machine in scratches.
Now, about two-thirds of the way through this underperforming 2021 season, we see another side of LeMahieu, who has baffled even his most loyal supporters. The Yankees’ Twitter – always a hotbed of opinions – seems to have resigned itself to the fact that he may never be the player they fell in love with in 2019 again.
While I’d like to describe his struggles myself as he only has one season ‘off’, a closer assessment of his career stats leads me to believe that the DJ we’re attending is actually the ‘ real DJ ”, and 2016 and 2019 were mere aberrations. But no, that doesn’t leave me hopeless, so listen to me and take heart, Yankee Universe.
Perhaps the best way to find a ‘normal’ LeMahieu campaign is to look at seasons of his career that weren’t outlier status (2016 and 2019) or incomplete (so no COVID 2020 shortcut, or cup of coffee of the Cubs in 2011). The veteran DJ status is helpful here as it leaves us with six more seasons of robust numbers. This would be 2012-15 and 2016-17, which we’ll call “the normal DJ era” for the sake of simplicity.
Over those years, LeMahieu has averaged around 136 hits, which is much more in line with the 137 he’s phased for this season – as opposed to the 192 in 2016 and 197 in 2019. After yesterday’s game evening, the OPS of LeMahieu is located at. 706, which is not far from the .730 he averaged in the normal DJ age.
In fact, LeMahieu’s OPS seems lower, but when weighted by stadium and league averages, OPS + tells a slightly different story:
Normal era of the DJ: 772G, .289 / .339 / .391, .730 OPS, 85 OPS +
2021 DJ: 102G, .267 / .343 / .363, .706 OPS, 96 OPS +
If anything, LeMahieu hits a bit better than he did in those non-superstar years.
Since its acquisition, Yankees fans have been spoiled by LeMahieu’s seemingly superhuman ability and clutch shots. These offensive statistics help us paint a bigger picture, however, and better manage our expectations. No player can have a career season all year, but that’s where I find encouragement: we know, and DJ knows, what he’s capable of.
Even in LeMahieu’s most recent games, we’ve seen improvements and resurgences, and that doesn’t even take into account his irreplaceable usefulness on the pitch, especially with such a busy season of injuries and COVID-19 diagnoses. The Yankees cornered him in every infield position except the shortstop for several overtime in 2021, and he played every time.
So while we might not expect to see a superhuman DJ year after year, we know his clutch and flashes of brilliance might just be close at hand.