D.J. LeMahieu

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David John LeMahieu

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Biographical Information[edit]

Second baseman D.J. LeMahieu was selected by the Detroit Tigers in the 41st round of the 2007 amateur draft but opted to attend college instead. At Louisiana State University, he played in the College World Series in 2008 and 2009 and was selected to the All-Tournament Team in the latter season as his team won the championship. He was then chosen by the Chicago Cubs in the second round of the 2009 amateur draft and signed by scout Steve Riha. He reached the big leagues with the club two summers later.

As a rookie with the Cubs in 2011, D.J. played 37 games, going 15 for 60 with a pair of doubles. He was however victim of a logjam in the Cubs' middle infield, with Starlin Castro having established himself as a budding star at shortstop, and Darwin Barney and Blake DeWitt both doing well at second base. As a result, the Cubs decided that hew was expendable, and on December 8th, he was traded to the Colorado Rockies with Tyler Colvin in return for Ian Stewart and Casey Weathers. With incumbent 2B Mark Ellis having left the Rockies as a free agent, LeMahieu stood a good chance to become a regular in Denver in 2012. He did not claim the job immediately, making a couple of stints with the AAA Colorado Springs SkySox, but his solid hitting when he was given a chance to play meant that his playing time increased as the season went along. On August 28th, however, it was his glove that put him in the record books, as he recorded 12 assists in a 9-inning game - an 8-4 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers - to tie a record held by several players, most recently Harold Reynolds of the Seattle Mariners in 1986­. He hit .297 in 81 games that season, then in 2013 hit .280 in 109 games. He was a full-time starter at second base in 2014, when he played 149 games for the Rockies and hit .267 with 5 homers and 42 RBIs. His glove was the best part of his game, as he was voted recipient of the Gold Glove as the National League's best-fielding second baseman that season. However, in spite of his defensive prowess, his offense over his first three seasons with Colorado left something to be desired, as his limited power and few walks resulted on OPS+ numbers of 88, 74 and 76 over the three years.

In 2015, he was an All-Star for the first time as he played 150 games and hit .301 with 6 homers and 61 RBIs, scoring 85 runs. He was still below 100 in terms of OPS+, at 92, in spite of the flashy batting average. However, in 2016, there was no denying that he was a solid offensive player, as he won the National League batting title with a .348 average. He scored 104 runs and hit 32 doubles, 8 triples and 11 homers with 66 RBIs. His OBP was also outstanding at .416 as he drew a career-high 66 walks, and as a result his OPS+ was a career high 128. In 2017, he was back in the All-Star Game, although his season was clearly not as good. In 155 games, he hit .310 with 8 homers and 64 RBIs, scoring 95 runs, but his OPS+ fell back to 93. He won his second Gold Glove at second base, and also played in the postseason for the first time as Colorado made it to the National League Wild Card Game against the Arizona Diamondbacks. He went 0 for 5 with 2 strikeouts. In 2018, the Rockies had one of their best seasons, almost winning the NL West title - they played and lost a one-game playoff against the os Angeles Dodgers after being tied at the end of 162 games - and he hit .276 in 128 games. He scored 90 runs and his 32 doubles and 15 homers were both career highs. he repeated as a Gold Glove winner, but the relatively low batting average, normally the best part of his offensive game, meant that his OPS+ was again below average, at 88. In the postseason, he was 1 for 6 with a double as the Rockies defeated the Chicago Cubs in the Wild Card Game. In the Division Series against the Milwaukee Brewers, he was 2 for 9 with 3 walks but did not score or drive in a run in the three games.

LeMahieu became a free agent after the 2018 season and on January 11, 2019, he signed a two-year contract with the New York Yankees worth $24 million. The Yankees were heading into the season knowing SS Didi Gregorius would miss at least the first half after Tommy John surgery, so the plan was likely to have D.J. play second, with second-year player Gleyber Torres sliding over to shortstop. The Yankees had also signed SS Troy Tulowitzki to the major league minimum a few days before, but this had been more akin to buying a lottery ticket. Indeed, with 3B Miguel Andujar and Tulowitzki both going down with injuries withing the first couple of weeks of the season, D.J. became a regular and got off to one of his best seasons. He was the American League Player of the Month for June, when he hit .395 with 6 homers and 29 RBIs and many commentators noted that he was clearly the circuit's MVP for the first half of the season and was perhaps more responsible than anyone for the Yankees having overcome their slew of early-season injuries to build a comfortable lead atop the AL East. He was also voted as the starting second baseman on the AL team at the 2019 All-Star Game. He finished the season at .327 with 33 doubles, 26 homers, 109 runs and 102 RBIs, and an OPS+ of 135. He was clearly his team's best offensive performer all season and finished fourth in the MVP vote, his highest placing ever. He continued to hit well in the postseason, going 4 for 14 with 3 extra-base hits in the Yankees' sweep of the Minnesota Twins in the Division Series, and then .346 with another 3 long hits in their loss to the Houston Astros in the ALCS.

If 2019 had been an excellent season for D.J., 2020 was otherworldly. While the small number of games played prevented him from putting up huge totals, his rate stats were all exceptional: his batting average of .364 was the highest in the majors and made him only the second player after Ed Delahanty, over a century earlier, to have won a batting title in both leagues; his OPB of .421 led the American League and was also a personal best; his slugging percentage was .590, 6th in the league, and he also led the AL in OPS at 1.011 and OPS+ at 177. He was one of a small number of batters against whom opposite teams could not use a defensive shift, as he was adept at hitting the ball to all fields, and especially of taking advantage of the short distance down the right-field line at New Yankee Stadium. In the postseason, he went 9 for 32 as the Yankees were eliminated by the Tampa Bay Rays in the Division Series after sweeping the Cleveland Indians in the Wild Card Series. He did not have any extra-base hits during the 7 games, but both scored and drove in 4 runs. He became a free agent after the season, and the Yankees made it clear that re-signing him was a priority, even though there were other suitors interested in his services. On January 15th, news emerged that a new deal with the Bronx Bombers was all but signed, with D.J. receiving $90 million over six seasons.

Given his batting line heavy in batting average but light in extra-base hits - at least until he joined the Yankees - and walks combined with excellent fielding gives him the profile of a prototypical middle infielder from another era. However, such players tend to be relatively short, but at 6' 4", LeMahieu is one of the tallest players to have played second base on a regular basis in the majors.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 3-time All-Star (2015, 2017 & 2019)
  • 3-time NL Gold Glove Winner (2014, 2017 & 2018)
  • 2-time AL Silver Slugger Award Winner (2019 & 2020)
  • 2-time league Batting Average Leader (2016/NL & 2020/AL)
  • AL On-Base Percentage Leader (2020)
  • AL OPS Leader (2020)
  • NL Singles Leader (2016)
  • 20-Home Run Seasons: 1 (2019)
  • 100 RBI Seasons: 1 (2019)
  • 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 2 (2016 & 2019)

Further Reading[edit]

  • Thomas Harding: "LeMahieu looking rock solid at keystone position: Colorado second baseman hopes to rebound offensively", mlb.com, February 9, 2015. [1]
  • Thomas Harding: "LeMahieu ignores naysayers, keeps improving", mlb.com, February 20, 2017. [2]
  • Bryan Hoch: "Yanks, LeMahieu nearing a deal (sources)", mlb.com, January 15, 2021. [3]
  • Mike Lupica: "DJ leaving New York? Say it ain't so", mlb.com, November 6, 2020. [4]
  • Bob Nightengale: "Overlooked in free agency, DJ LeMahieu has been a godsend for the Yankees – and perhaps the AL MVP", USA Today, July 1, 2019. [5]
  • Mike Petriello: "How leaving Coors may affect LeMahieu's stats: Infielder's 2018 OBP was .360 at home, .277 on road", mlb.com, January 11, 2019. [6]

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