DJ LeMahieu is having a disappointing year for the Yankees. The hole he has dug for himself is deep, and the climb from there to .300 is steep.
DJ LeMahieu is not the type of player built to take the $90 million the Yankees gave him during the offseason and run with it.
Puzzled as everyone seems to be, LeMahieu is the first to admit he can’t explain his .256 batting average either.
Still, the Yankees need him to be a force at the top of the lineup to get on base ahead of Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and when he returns, Luke Voit. It’s not happening, and the Yankees are suffering for it.
After eleven seasons in the big leagues, DJ LeMahieu is one of the few in the game today, with a lifetime .300 batting average (.303).
Now, as an exercise only, and given LeMahieu’s current stats, what will it take for him to reach .300 this season? Follow me…
- LeMahieu has played in 57 games for the Yankees, and for this exercise, let’s assume he’ll reach 150 games by season end (he has to rest sometime).
- At his current rate and with 257 plate appearances so far, he will have 676 (call it 675) at-bats by season’s end.
- With those 675 plate appearances, to bat .300 for the season, LeMahieu will need 202 hits (675 X .3)
- With 58 hits to date, this means DJ LeMahieu needs to collect 144 more base hits to reach 202.
- Subtracting 257 from 675 leaves him with 418 plate appearances from now until the end of the season.
- This means that LeMahieu will need to hit .344 for the rest of the year to reach .300 (144 divided by 418).
Can he do it? Well, he’s done it before, twice.
Once, in 2016, when he batted .348 to win the NL Batting Title when he was with Colorado, and again last year when he averaged .364 in an abbreviated season in which he has only 216 plate appearances.
But you would agree that’s a mighty steep climb to make, especially with the dog days of summer fast approaching.
DJ LeMahieu is the kind of ballplayer you can’t help but root for. He plays everywhere, and he plays every day. You never hear a peep from him, and his expression on the field is like that of Gerrit Cole – stoic and intense…but…
DJ LeMahieu Can’t Do It Alone
Naysayers will insist it doesn’t matter if LeMahieu reaches .300 or not because the Yankees don’t hit with runners in scoring position anyway, so what’s the difference?
Well, the difference is that the Yankees need a spark, and DJ LeMahieu was primarily resigned to provide that spark.
Those 144 base hits he needs to reach .300 plus the walks LeMahieu will draw represent the number of times Aaron Judge will come up with a man on base, and with the year Judge is having, good things are bound to happen.
At 37 and with all the centerfield he is playing, Brett Gardner no longer is the spark in the lineup to be the table set player. It’s LeMahieu’s job, that’s what he is paid for, and he knows it.
Remember That Streak Of Small Ball?
When the Yankees were on that mini seven-game win streak, you’ll recall they were doing it, not with the home run, but by playing small ball, just as the Red Sox did to them the other night when a sacrifice bunt that led to the winning run scoring.
Being aggressive at the plate doesn’t always mean taking the big swing, leading to hitting into one of the Yankee’s league-leading double plays by pulling a weak ground ball to shortstop.
To combat those rally-killing double plays, it behooves Aaron Boone to be more aggressive, turning the runner loose from first base to steal second, or even more to the point, to put the onus on his hitter to put the ball in play.
In sum, if DJ LeMahieu bats .400 for the remainder of the year, it won’t do any good if the rest of the team does not react to the situation presented to them as they walk to the plate.
So, if LeMahieu leads off an inning with a double, Judge, or whoever is hitting second, better damn well lay down a perfect sacrifice bunt moving LeMahieu over to third with no outs.
Aaron Judge, you say – bunting? That’s what I said.
DJ LeMahieu Can Lead But Aaron Boone Must Follow
While the spark has to come from LeMahieu, the follow-up is Aaron Boone’s job to hold his players accountable for what they do when batting with runners on, and also when they are running the bases – another sore point with the Yankees this year.
Look, the Yankees are scoring less than four runs a game this year, swinging for the fences, striking out, and leaving untolled numbers of runners on base anyway.
So, why not take a different approach and one that will allow Boone in his postgame meetings with reporters to tell the truth when he says that Gio Urshela had “a real good at-bat” when he hit a sacrifice fly to drive in the tying run.
Cashman Can Step In Too, But…
If Brian Cashman makes a move to bring in a left-handed power bat, that’s fine, and it can only help.
But remember, this is the same team (minus Luke Voit, who has been a no-show with injuries) predicted to meet the Los Angeles Dodger come October in the World Series.
The pitching staff, and especially the bullpen, has been doing its job maintaining itself with the seventh-best ERA in the major leagues (3.37).
The loss of Corey Kluber is a blow and something Brian Cashman needs to address now or at the July trade deadline, but no matter how well the Yankees pitch, DJ LeMahieu, and the rest of the lineup needs to pick up the pace.
These Yankees may squeeze one out by a 4-3 score against the Tampa Bay Rays. Still, they’ll always fall short against the Boston Red Sox, Chicago White Sox, Houston Astros, and the Vladimir Guerrero Jr. led Toronto Blue Jays unless they toss aside the three-run home run (that is lacking anyway) to become a situational hitting team.
It all begins with DJ LeMahieu, who, as we’ve learned, has a steep hill to climb to reach his lifetime batting average of .303 – but it certainly doesn’t end there…
Author’s Postscript 6:45 pm ET 6/9/2021
I think this one away from me in the sense I started out with one theme – the climb DJ needs to make to reach .300 – and then I switched over to a completely different theme about the rest of the team’s need to support DJ when he does get on base with situational hitting. Readers like John Casale (below) picked up on this, correctly pointing out that BA is not as important as getting on base. That’s what this is all about – the feedback from you – the reader.
Here’s What Readers Are Saying…
Jay LeBlanc At least he’s signed long-term for cheap. You’ll get your money’s worth eventually.
John Casale Who cares about .300? He just needs to start getting on base and driving in runs NYY
Alan Heller Since the point of the article is how important it is that he gets on base in front of Judge, Stanton, and Voit, why are you talking about batting average? Author’s Reply: Because he needs hits to get on base and hits equate to batting average. Your point is well taken and I might have considered changing the title to reflect what comes later when situational hitting is discussed. Author’s Note: To this, Alan had an excellent, though lengthy reply. I refer you to his comment as it appears on Facebook Group, Baseball Discussion And Debates.
Oswaldo Collazo DON’T CUT SHORT DJ. HE WILL RETURN TO FORM.
Salvatore F. Salamone DJ is having a rough start. However, his at-bats are competitive for the most part and he is still a great player. If ever there was someone to wait for it’s him. As solid a player as any on the team. A whole roster of hustling players like him would win you titles.
John W. Kovacs Personally, I don’t care if he hits .300 as long as he hits in the clutch and drives in a significant amount of runs
Bruce Chester I don’t think he will get there and he is a major disappointment and perhaps another bad contract
Luis Garay DJ LeMahieu’s average is 256…don’t be so dramatic man. I can see if he was batting 156 or 180 but talking about a steep hole is a little much.
Robert Oliveri DJ is the only one I have confidence in that he will Bounce back to his old self