DJ LeMahieu was the New York Yankees‘ team MVP in both 2019 and 2020. There’s no debating that, either. Both Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge missed a ton of time due to injury, and it was DJLM who helped carry the Yankees to a 103-win regular season and pushed them into the shortened-season playoffs by a razor-thin margin.
Whether you think his six-year, $90 million contract was a ripoff or not (the Yankees have endless funds, so it doesn’t matter), LeMahieu’s showing in 2021 was extremely uncharacteristic and not what we should expect for the remainder of his time in the Bronx.
Then again, we can’t really expect his numbers from his first two seasons with the team, either. Something in the middle would be fair, but his .268 average, .711 OPS and 97 OPS+ from this past year won’t be tolerated, that’s for sure.
The good news is that the Yankees have a valid reason to believe that performance was an outlier due to the hernia injury LeMahieu ultimately needed surgery for, which prevented him from playing in the AL Wild Card Game against the Boston Red Sox.
It’s unclear if LeMahieu was battling the injury for much of the season, but Dan Martin of the New York Post said team officials believe his struggles could be traced back to it.
That’s what many have suspected, but without any confirmation. Now that it’s coming from the organization, it’s got to have fans feeling a little bit better about what happened to the near-automatic leadoff man.
The Yankees reportedly believe DJ LeMahieu was held back due to injury.
When you look at LeMahieu’s campaign in its totality, he never really showed any signs of breaking out of his prolonged slump. It started with the rest of the team in April and never really subsided. His highest batting average all year was .313 on April 10 … and after that day, he never hit above .300 again. He dipped all the way down to .255 and finished the year at .268.
His power took a significant dip too, which many believed was due to the juiced ball in 2019 (when he hit 26 home runs). But he also hit 10 bombs in the shortened 2020 … followed by 10 in his next 150 games. The bigger issue perhaps was his dip in extra-base hits in general. During his final year with the Rockies, he registered a total of 49 in 128 games, followed by a career-high 61 in 145 games in 2019. In 2021? Just 35 in 150 games.
Colossal decreases all around.
Before this revelation from Martin, the Yankees and their fans were struggling to figure out where these issues derived and where LeMahieu would play on defense in 2022 now that Gleyber Torres has been shifted back to second base.
We still don’t know the answer to the second conundrum, but at least we can expect his offensive woes to be in the rearview once he returns to full strength after recovering from surgery this offseason.