Here are the slash lines of three different offseason acquisitions: .229/.376./.450, .252/.325/.437, and .333//.384/.452. Here’s a hint: the third one is not Bryce Harper or Manny Machado. No, it is D.J. LeMahieu, while Harper, owns the first slash line, and Machado owns the second.
A fervent portion of the Yankees’ fan base boisterously voiced its melancholy over Yankees owner and managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner’s so-called parsimonious spending methods (even though the Yankees have exceeded the luxury tax threshold every year under his stewardship aside from last year, and they are close to a $230 million payroll this year), figuring The Boss’s heir apparent to be utterly averse to wanting to sign stars like Machado and Harper. Where are they now?
Back in December, I mentioned that LeMahieu could be a potential bargain for the Yankees, and he has been, and then some. The three-time Gold Glove winner could have commanded a deal within the boundaries of four year at $56 million, identical to that of Ben Zobrist of the Cubs. Instead, due mostly in part to the past two gelid free agency periods, Brian Cashman signed LeMahieu for two years at $24 million. LeMahieu was originally intended to be a platoon player, but now he has masterfully accepted the role of superhero.
This season, LeMahieu ranks third among all second basemen in OPS (.836), second in wRC+ (126), and third in WAR (1.2). Many detractors pointed to his lack of success at the plate away from Coors Field, but that was not hindered him at all so far this season, and his .962 OPS and .400 average over his last nine games indicate that he’s not quite ready to subside, if he ever will.
What’s more is LeMahieu’s surreal clutch numbers, because he has posted a 1.325 OPS in high-leverage situations this season, and a .955 OPS with two outs and runners in scoring position, in addition to a .457 average and 1.151 OPS when the Yankees are trailing. Yet, what is most unique about LeMahieu is not even his superb play in clutch moments or his glove, but his simple hitting approach. The Yankees hit more home runs than any team in history last year, and are still on pace to hit 231 despite the absences of Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Didi Gregorius, and the fluctuating health of Gary Sanchez, and here is a player in D.J. LeMahieu, who has all of 51 career home runs to his name and has never hit more than 15 in a season. It represents a nice change of pace, and it reminds the 29 teams who failed to sign the former batting champion that there’s more to hitting than having the end result be either a jog around the bases or a trudge back to the dugout after whiffing.
The bottom line is that the Yankees have won 18 of their last 25 games, seven of their last eight series, and are currently just a half game behind the Rays for first place in the AL East, and D.J. LeMahieu is the biggest reason why.