Friday, January 11, 2019

DJ LeMahieu and Hitting Inside Yankee Stadium (And Outside of Coors Field)



The New York Yankees signed second baseman and former Colorado Rockies hitter DJ LeMahieu today to a two-year deal rumored to be around $24 million. Presumably, LeMahieu will be the Yankees starting second baseman on Opening Day 2019, assuming health of course, but New York has already been quite vocal about DJ’s ability to play all over the infield. The Yankees pretty much know what they are going to get from LeMahieu defensively, DJ is a multiple-time Gold Glove winner as well as a 2018 Fielding Bible Award winner at second base in the National League, but do they know what they are going to get from their new second baseman offensively? Do the fans who are already crucifying LeMahieu and Yankees GM Brian Cashman know what they are going to get from LeMahieu offensively, aside from his splits inside Coors Field? No, they don’t, but thanks to Baseball Reference and Fangraphs we can make an educated guess at what to expect from the latest “DJ” inside the Yankees infield.


 Looking at LeMahieu’s spray chart and hit chart, courtesy of Fangraphs, you can see that DJ has surprising fly ball and line drive power to all fields, but especially to right field. This is especially important for a player that plays 81 of his games in the Bronx and inside Yankee Stadium. Many fans were quick to point out LeMahieu’s splits at home and away from Colorado’s Coors Field, but none of them even considered what it would be like hitting in the traditionally hitting friendly stadiums throughout the AL East.


 Yes, DJ LeMahieu benefited from hitting inside Coors Field for 81 games a season, but do you really think he benefited just as much hitting inside San Francisco’s spacious AT&T Park? What about San Diego’s Petco Park? I would think these stadiums would hurt his road stats more than they would help him. Equally, I would think playing those 10-12 games in each stadium inside Boston’s Fenway Park, Baltimore’s Oriole Park in Camden Yards, Tropicana Field down in Tampa, and the Rogers Centre in Toronto would help him tremendously with his home/road splits. Keep in mind, the below spreadsheet does not factor in the team’s performance and talent levels, obviously facing a stacked Boston Red Sox team is different than facing a 96-loss San Diego Padres team in 2018, but it only factors in the dimensions of every park and projects what he could do in 2019. While we are on the subject, though, the AL East won a combined 418 games (including the Yankees 100 wins which takes it down to 318 wins as LeMahieu is now a Yankee) while the NL West won a combined 404 games (including 91 by the Rockies bringing the number down to 313 wins) which goes to show you the potential level of competition LeMahieu may face in 2019 in the AL East. Teams like San Diego, San Francisco, and the Dodgers are all trying to get better while LeMahieu arrived just in time for a rebuild down in Baltimore and Toronto, with Tampa Bay on the cusp of competing again in my opinion.


As you can see, and I tried to keep this as simple as I could for simplicity’s sake, LeMahieu will surely benefit from playing in smaller ballparks throughout the AL East Division, including Yankee Stadium where he can torment opposing pitchers by using the short porch in right field. Yes, despite what the dimensions say the ball really flies out of and carries inside Coors Field, but at the same time we all know, again despite the dimensions, that AT&T Park and that huge wall in right field as well as Petco Park play a lot bigger than what the dimensions may suggest. In my opinion, keeping in mind that LeMahieu not only has to stay healthy but also has to put the barrel of the bat on the ball, what DJ loses by playing outside of Coors Field he will more than make up playing inside Yankee Stadium and the other four ballparks in the AL East.


Yes, LeMahieu has some ugly stats away from Coors Field, but that doesn’t mean that we are automatically going to see that player with the Yankees in 2019. You also have to factor in that LeMahieu will not only be playing his home games inside Yankee Stadium, but that he will also be playing his road games in traditionally hitter-friendly ballparks within the AL East. LeMahieu, and the New York Yankees, will be fine. Yankees fans have to know that, and they have to truly believe it as well.

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