DJ LeMahieu, a super utility ball player for the New York Yankees, has just won the 2020 American League batting title with a .364 average. This marks the second time in LeMahieu’s decade long career that he has won a batting title. He is also the first undisputed ball player in the modern era to have won a batting title in both the American and National Leagues. Another utility ball player, Hall of Famer Ed Delahanty, had won the National League batting title in 1899 while playing for the Philadelphia Phillies (.410) and then in 1902 won the same award in the American League for the Washington Senators (.376) even though some claim that Hall of Famer Napoleon Lajoie was the actual winner.
LeMahieu’s outstanding accomplishment marks the tenth time a ball player on the Yankees has won an American League batting title. He joins an exclusive group of franchise icons: Babe Ruth (1924 -.378), Lou Gehrig (1934 -.363), Joe DiMaggio (1939 -.381 and 1940 -.352), Snuffy Stirnweiss (1945 -.309), Mickey Mantle (1956 -.353), Don Mattingly (1984 -.343), Paul O’Neill (1994 -.359), and Bernie Williams (1998 -.339). LeMahieu also becomes the fourth Yankees ball player to lead Major League Baseball in batting average for a season. This short, yet elite list is headlined by Gehrig, DiMaggio (1939), and Mantle.
Sadly, batting average has become an obsolete statistic because all hits are equally valued and then divided by at bats. Its irrelevance is based in simplicity in comparison to slugging percentage where singles, doubles, triples, and home runs are all valued differently and then divided by at bats. Additional advancements in analytics have challenged us to think differently regarding offense. However, we still marvel at what LeMahieu has been able to accomplish because he is the epitome of a complete ball player and it is still impressive to see a batting average eclipse .360 regardless of analytics or an abbreviated regular season.
If someone were looking for a description of LeMahieu as an offensive ball player, the best answer would be to say he has mastered the art of hitting singles while using every blade of grass on a baseball field to his advantage. As LeMahieu walks to home plate, you always get the impression that he is laser focused and appears as if he is going to get a hit in every at bat with a level swing. There is a calmness to his approach to hitting even as the ball explodes off his bat at speeds over 95 miles per hour with great regularity. LeMahieu has demonstrated an innate ability to make the slightest of adjustments after every pitch in an at bat.
In a Yankees’ lineup synonymous with awe inspiring displays of power and strikeouts, LeMahieu has quietly cultivated an entirely different reputation than most of his teammates over the past two seasons in the Bronx. He will not mesmerize you with tape measure home runs accompanied by jaw dropping launch angles, exit velocities, and barrels. LeMahieu’s true beauty as a hitter is witnessed in consistency and giving headaches to opponents when it comes to defensive shifts. Since winning the 2016 National League batting title (.348) with the Colorado Rockies through the completion of the 2020 abbreviated regular season, LeMahieu has accumulated the third most hits in the game (796) and the most singles (573) during this period according to FanGraphs.
LeMahieu has become a fan favorite for a variety of reasons. He is the embodiment of a working-class ball player who grinds it out every day and selflessly does the little things to win games. LeMahieu is hailed for being a model of consistency and professionalism in a galaxy of superstars. Many believe he would have been a perfect fit on the championship ball clubs for the Yankees during the mid-1990s through the early 2000s.
LeMahieu is an artisan when it comes to multi-hit games. Over the past two seasons, he has accumulated 80 multi-hit games which has produced a 56-24 record for the Yankees (.700 winning percentage). In seven of these games, LeMahieu had achieved four hit performances. Statistically, the 80 multi-hit games had seen LeMahieu produce an astonishing slash line of .552/.579/.853 which totals an on base plus slugging percentage of 1.432 according to the 2019-2020 game logs on Baseball-Reference.com. He struck out 32 times over 377 plate appearances (8.49 percent) while only drawing a base on balls 25 times (6.63 percent). LeMahieu scored 96 runs and drove in 87 base runners to complement an extra base hit percentage of 14.85 percent.
DJ LeMahieu is a free agent at season’s end and will attract significant interest even in a highly uncertain market. The New York Yankees must treat LeMahieu as a top offseason priority regardless of what happens during the postseason. LeMahieu’s age (32 years old) might seem like a deterrent to some ball clubs, but his offensive consistency and defensive versatility demonstrate that he is in the prime years of his career. LeMahieu is a complete ball player who will likely receive serious consideration in this year’s wide-open race for the American League’s Most Valuable Player Award.