What’s Behind DJ LeMahieu’s Energy Outage?

The Yankees snapped a four-game skid on Wednesday in opposition to the Angels to keep away from a sweep and keep two video games forward of the Purple Sox within the AL wild card race. Gerrit Cole was good, putting out 15 en path to his 14th win of the season. Two-out singles from Luke Voit within the third inning and Brett Gardner within the fourth plated many of the runs for the Yankees, with Aaron Judge including insurance coverage with a solo shot within the eighth.

Perched atop the lineup was DJ LeMahieu, who reached base 3 times and scored the primary run of the sport. It’s been a little bit of a down 12 months for the veteran second baseman, who earned MVP consideration within the 2019 and ’20 seasons. Not recognized for his energy earlier than that former season, he caught the facility bug instantly after becoming a member of the Yankees, slugging 36 house runs in 871 plate appearances, good for one house run each 24 journeys to the plate. These aren’t enormous energy numbers in right this moment’s recreation, nevertheless it’s a a lot increased frequency of house runs than he managed hitting in Coors Area half the 12 months — 3 times as usually, in truth.

This season has gone very otherwise within the house run division. LeMahieu leads the staff in plate appearances (575) and video games performed (26) however has gone deep solely 9 occasions, a charge that’s way more in keeping with how he hit previous to coming to New York. So what about his efficiency has modified?

For probably the most half, high quality of contact is according to what he’s produced previously; his most exit velocity is 110.6 mph, falling between his marks from the ‘19 and ‘20 seasons. What jumps out is his house run-per-fly ball charge.

In case you’ve been being attentive to LeMahieu the previous few seasons, you could have been ready for this to occur. The facility surge that he’s skilled as a Yankee has come largely because of a doubling in his home-run charge on fly balls. His 30.7 HR/FB% at Yankee Stadium is otherworldly, some 20 factors increased than his charge on the highway and second to solely Ryan McMahon’s home-road splits in that stat.

2019-20 HR/FB% Residence/Highway Splits

Minimal 150 plate appearances.

Unusually although, and to the dismay of the entrance workplace that dedicated $90 million to LeMahieu for the following six years, his Yankee Stadium home-run charge has fallen again all the way down to 10.9%. That form of drop is outdoors of the anticipated error bars that include seasonal fluctuations; one thing else is happening right here.

Most of LeMahieu’s peripherals are constant along with his physique of labor as a serious leaguer. His hard-hit charge this season sits at 43.6% in comparison with a profession common of 44.6, and his contact charge is at 87.2%, which is correct on his profession common of 87.1. As a contact hitter with a reasonably flat bat path, he’s sometimes close to the underside of the league in common launch angle, and that’s the case once more this season, with a median of 4.5 levels, fifth lowest amongst certified hitters.

That low launch angle is what makes his energy surge in pinstripes so suspect. The pleasant geometry of Yankee Stadium explains it considerably, however lots of his house runs are “wall scrapers.” In 2019, his homers averaged 386 ft, the Seventeenth-lowest mark amongst hitters with not less than 10 house runs. As Jay Jaffe pointed out last year, LeMahieu hits a outstanding variety of fly balls to the alternative subject. Let’s replace Jay’s desk to incorporate this season:

LeMahieu Pull vs Reverse Area

12 months Pull PA GB/FB Pull GB% Pull FB% Pull SLG Oppo PA GB/FB Oppo GB% Oppo FB% Oppo SLG
2015 98 9.88 81.4% 8.3% 0.327 180 1.32 35.2% 26.7% 0.568
2016 106 6.91 73.1% 10.6% 0.529 184 1.04 32.6% 31.5% 0.568
2017 114 8.3 74.8% 9.0% 0.432 202 1.15 35.3% 30.9% 0.576
2018 137 5.21 72.3% 13.9% 0.518 136 0.76 30.1% 39.7% 0.556
2019 144 8.69 78.5% 9.0% 0.583 174 0.62 25.6% 41.3% 0.719
2020 48 9.25 77.1% 8.3% 0.563 76 1.00 34.2% 34.2% 0.853
2021 107 7.18 73.8% 10.3% 0.491 154 1.04 34.4% 33.1% 0.513

General, his batted ball place is kind of the identical as earlier years, however his distribution of fly balls has modified a bit. Since final season, his opposite-field fly-ball charge dropped from 39.3% to 34.2% for the 2020 season. This 12 months it’s fallen even additional to 33.1% to go along with a career-low .513 slugging charge on fly balls to the alternative subject.

For context, let’s check out a typical LeMahieu homer.

Statcast measured that house run off that bat with an exit velocity of 97.5, a launch angle of 21 levels, and an estimated distance of 351 ft. You’ll be able to see that it simply barely will get over the wall, however a house run is a house run.

Due to this excellent analysis from Devan Fink earlier this 12 months, we now have a reasonably good concept of the kind of house runs which were affected by the brand new ball. Sadly for LeMahieu, his trademark line-drive–opposite-field house runs fall proper within the candy spot.

LeMahieu Fly Ball Subsets

BBE Subset Estimated Impact of New Ball 2019-20 BBE 2019-20 Homers 2019-20 HR/FB 2021 BBE 2021 Homers 2021 HR/FB
20-24 LA, 104-109 EV -0.18 5 1 20.0% 0 0 0.0%
20-24 LA, 94-99 EV -0.20 13 1 7.7% 2 0 0.0%
25-29 LA, 100-104 EV -0.22 11 6 54.5% 2 0 0.0%
20-24 LA, 100-104 EV -0.34 8 3 37.5% 9 1 11.1%
Complete 37 11 29.7% 13 1 7.7%

SOURCE: Baseball Savant

If we’re to interpret this immediately, the brand new ball has probably value LeMahieu a number of house runs, and whereas that may be mentioned for many gamers, due to the best way he hits his house runs, it most likely hurts him greater than most gamers. If we concentrate on the subsets of “20–24 levels LA, 100–104 EV” and “25–29 levels LA, 100–104 EV,” the brand new ball took away 4 homers; change 4 outs with these, and his season wOBA goes from .317 to .332. That’s not going to win him a Silver Slugger award this season, nevertheless it’s a major distinction.

Extra typically, although, of the 36 homers that LeMahieu hit in ‘19 and ‘20, over half of them sailed over the fence with a launch angle lower than or equal to 30 levels and an exit velocity no higher than 105 mph. This season, solely three of his 9 house runs match that description. The league-wide HR/FB charge for such balls has dropped, going from 33.1% in 2019 to 22.3% this season. For LeMahieu, the dip has been much more dramatic, going from 50% two years in the past to 10.5%.

Take that energy increase away, and LeMahieu extra resembles his former Rockies self. He’s taken a small step backwards this season when it comes to base hits, however a few of that could possibly be attributed to some unhealthy luck and a lower in hard-hit charge; his .301 BABIP is the second-lowest of his profession behind solely his 2018 season complete of .298. That was his last 12 months in Colorado, when he completed with a wRC+ of 87 and a couple of.1 WAR.

Although he managed elevated energy numbers in his first two seasons in pinstripes, regression was overdue. However all just isn’t misplaced, as he nonetheless brings loads of worth to the Yankees’ lineup. Aided by a career-high 10.8 BB%, he serves as a dependable possibility on the prime of the order to set the desk for the highly effective bats behind him. And regardless of simply barely registering above common when it comes to wRC+ (102), LeMahieu’s stable glove and penchant for staying wholesome have him on tempo for a season-ending WAR within the neighborhood of three. Fairly good for a man who’s taken some flak for not assembly expectations on the plate.

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