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.

Thoughts Concerning Harper/Machado After Signing Of DJ LeMahieu

For the second time this off season the Yankees have signed someone that basically kills an idea I posted about moments before.

I just wrote about the Yankees signing Marwin Gonzalez, and not two minutes after I did so news came out that they agreed to a two-year contract with infielder DJ LeMahieu.

While there's a chance Gonzalez could be signed to start regularly in left field over Brett Gardner, I don't believe they will do that. Nor should they. I wasn't attracted to Marwin because he was so much better than Gardner offensively (he's not), but because of Marwin's ability to play at so many positions both in the infield and outfield. That's not necessary any longer.

But one thing to keep in mind, which has already been talked about all over Twitter, is the signing of LeMahieu does not kill the chances the Yankees sign Manny Machado.

It would be great having a multi-time Gold Glove winner regularly in the infield, but the fact is DJ is not so good that he wouldn't be used more as a utility player. DJ's OPS+ over the past two seasons is only 91.

So the idea that this signing kills the chances of bringing in Manny Machado is silly.

The same goes for Bryce Harper, although that's more obvious since Harper does not play the infield like Machado does.

However, one thing you can take from this latest signing is that the Yankees will not be signing both Manny Machado and Bryce Harper. Although that doesn't upset me because I didn't think that was going to happen anyway, no matter how much I thought they should do that.

To prove those things to you here are the two rosters we'd likely see if either Machado or Harper were signed...

with Machado
1. Hicks - CF
2. Judge - RF
3. Machado - SS
4. Stanton - DH
5. Sanchez - C
6. Andujar - 3B
7. Torres - 2B
8. Voit - 1B
9. Gardner - LF

Bench: Romine, Bird, Tulowitski, LeMahieu

with Harper
1. Hicks - CF
2. Judge - RF
3. Harper - LF
4. Stanton - DH
5. Sanchez - C
6. Andujar - 3B
7. Torres - 2B
8. Tulowitski - SS
9. Voit - 1B

Bench: Romine, Bird, Gardner, LeMahieu

Now, I will admit that the roster with Machado is lacking something... an outfielder on the bench. So if there's any reason why Manny is less likely after the news of signing LeMahieu then that is it.

Of course, the Yankees could always choose to trade one of Bird or Voit, allowing them to open up a roster spot for an outfielder on the bench. Which is not that far out of the realm of possibility.

So let's not lose hope yet. And let's certainly not lose our heads, either.

Machado And Harper Are Not The Only Free Agents To Covet

I get it, Manny Machado and Bryce Harper being a free agents is huge. It's rare that players as good as they are, and at their age, can be acquired via free agency. But if you've been so focused on what's going on with Machado and Harper that you haven't paid any attention to other free agent hitters then you're missing out on someone that could be an excellent signing for the Yankees.


Marwin Gonzalez is someone every team would, or at least should, want to have on their roster. While he may not be the same hitter he was for the Astros in 2017, when he slashed .303/.377/.530, I have no doubt that he'll at least be a slightly above average hitter. Not to mention that the combination of him just now entering his age 30 season, and the likelihood of him agreeing to a contract of no more than 4 years at a much lower AAV than the aforementioned two, is very attractive.

It's not Marwin's bat that makes me hope the Yankees sign him, though. There are plenty of players out there that could give a team slightly above average offensive production. But look at what position, or I should say what positions, Marwin can play.

In 2018 alone Gonzalez played at least 176 innings at first base, second base, shortstop, and left field (he played the most in left field at 533 innings). That type of flexibility would make Aaron Boone smile extremely wide.

Not only could Marwin play left field instead of the declining Brett Gardner, he could also help solidify what has been a sore spot at first base, and if the Yankees miss out on Machado he could help at shortstop should Tulowitski get hurt again or play poorly.

With or without Machado, Gonzalez would be a big boost to the Yankees. Just take a look...

with Machado
1. Hicks - CF
2. Judge - RF
3. Machado - SS
4. Stanton - DH
5. Andujar - 3B
6. Sanchez - C
7. Gonzalez - LF
8. Voit/Bird - 1B
9. Torres - 2B

without Machado
1. Hicks - CF
2. Judge - RF
3. Andujar - 3B
4. Stanton - DH
5. Sanchez - C
6. Voit/Bird - 1B
7. Gonzalez - LF
8. Tulowitski - SS
9. Torres - 2B

note: I'm not trying to get into a conversation about the batting order, just showing you what could happen here.

And that assumes everyone is and stays healthy. Having someone like Gonzalez that could cover you very well should you be hit with an injury at four different positions is huge.

Look, if the Yankees don't sign Marwin I won't be too upset about it, unlike if they pass on both Machado and Harper (these are extremely rare opportunities, guys!). But Gonzalez should absolutely be on Brian Cashman's radar.