The Tuesday Discussion – Our 2019 Yankees MVP
This week we asked:
Who was your Yankees MVP this year?
And our writers responded:
Lincoln Mitchell – I wish I could offer a more interesting or controversial answer, but my Yankees MVP this year is DJ LeMahieu. In addition to leading the team in WAR, LeMahieu did everything that was asked of him this year. He settled into the leadoff role very smoothly, hit for surprising power, was an extraordinary clutch hitter and played 30 or more games at three different infield positions-and he played them all very well. He also managed to stay healthy in a year when the Yankees were freakishly injury prone. LeMahieu’s strong year also helped make Didi Gregorius’s injury in the early season and mediocre offensive performance once he came back much less damaging to the Yankees. Gleyber Torres, who had a breakout year and like LeMahieu played more than one infield position-although Torres was not as good with the leather as LeMahieu, is one runner up. The other runner up is Aaron Judge who was perhaps the best hitter on the Yankees but who missed too much time due to injury to be the team MVP.
Jacob Gaba – I’ve got DH LeMahieu as my team MVP. He not only is at the top of the league in batting (and is only going to lose because Tim Anderson played out of his mind in September), but he also provided the Yankees with the positional versatility that they especially needed when all of the injuries occurred. LeMahieu didn’t just play 1st, 2nd, and 3rd—he played them well. He also came through at the plate with men on base, driving in 100+ runs as a primarily lead off hitter. The Yankees couldn’t have asked for a better free agent signing.
Matthew Cohen – DJ LeMahieu. And it’s not really even close. He led the Yankees with 5.6 WAR (Aaron Judge was second with 4.4). He had 102 RBIs and 109 runs scored along with 26 home runs. He played first, second and third, minimizing the days that Boone had to play a no bat sub. A brilliant signing by Cashman.
Michael Saffer – With a .330 batting average, an almost .900 OPS, and a 5.7 WAR, DJ LeMehieu has my vote for team MVP this year. Along with the aforementioned stats, he demonstrated his versatility by successfully playing almost every infield position throughout the season.
Andy Singer – The easiest way (and in many cases, the most reasonable) to answer this question would be to check out the WAR leaderboard for the Yankees this season. By that measure, it’s not even close – were I to choose that methodology, DJ LeMahieu would run away with the award for team MVP, having accumulated 6.0 bWAR/5.4 fWAR. Certainly, his production was likely the most valuable in raw terms and his versatility was greatly needed this season.However, this would be the easy answer, and it ignores the fact that the Yankees had multiple capable infielders play on the dirt this year.
I realize that this will sound a bit contrarian, but my vote for team MVP goes to Brett Gardner. Brett Gardner was worth 4.0 bWAR/3.7 fWAR this season, well shy of LeMahieu’s raw output. However, Gardner started 94/140 games in CF at 36 years old…and played the position at an above-average level, defensively! Not only was he excellent defensively, but Gardner also provided necessary pop at the plate, swatting a career-high 28 homers, with a walk rate just shy of 10%, and typically excellent baserunning by Fangraph’s metrics. While the numbers are less impressive in a vacuum, it is essential to understand that Gardy was tasked with replacing Aaron Hicks’ value on a day-to-day basis for the majority of the season without anyone else capable of providing even average everyday defense in CF (note: the Yankees made it plain that they did not view Tauchman as a capable, everyday defensive CF when they decided to play a 36 year old Brett Gardner instead of Tauchman in CF when both were healthy). The most important positions on a baseball diamond defensively are up the middle, and Gardner not only provided stability, but he thrived in an everyday role. Gardy’s value above and beyond the alternative options in CF cannot be overstated. Brett Gardner was the Yankees’ MVP this year.
Sean Oldread – My Yankees MVP was Gio Urshela. Gio stepped into an almost impossible spot filling in for the 2018 ROY runner-up, Miguel Andujar. Gio filled this role spectacularly, he was definitely an upgrade defensively from Andujar, but came through with his best season at the plate hitting an astounding .314! It is hard to believe that he couldn’t find a spot in Cleveland or Toronto. Urshela stepped up early and often in the beginning of this season and really started and embodied the next man up mentality of this year’s Yankees.
Mike Whiteman – My Yankee MVP is DJ LeMahieu. Amongst the injures and uncertainty of the 2019 season he was a rock of consistency and excellence, wherever he played.
Frankly, it was one of the best seasons I’ve seen by a Yankee position player in the forty years I’ve followed them.
Paul Semendinger – I want to say that Gleyber Torres was the Yankees’ MVP. I really want to. A .278/38/90 performance is super. He did this while playing second base and shortstop. He was amazing. He also brought joy and positive energy to the Yankees.
I also love Andy Singer’s answer above. Brett Gardner is a great candidate. He was much of the heart of the team. The players stated that he fired them up. The bat banging was a highlight (until it became a problem with the umpires). I love the energy.
But, in the end, D.J. LeMahieu was the best player on the team. He was actually #5 in the American League in WAR. .327/26/102 is just too great to ignore. D.J. LeMahieu was the Yankees 2019 MVP.
Patrick Gunn – This is a close one, but I’m going to say that the team MVP this year is Brett Gardner. I know, I know, DJ LeMahieu has been amazing. That being said, Gardner gets my pick because not only has he exceeded any expectations set for him and actually played well in the face of not being resigned, he has become the Bomber’s spiritual leader. The banging the bat on the roof of the dugout and the savages in the box have become rallying cries, and Gardner has been in the middle of both. The quiet, businesslike leader in LeMahieu is great, but Gardner has added the passion the Yankees have needed. In addition, Gardner is having a career year in terms of power with an unthinkable 28 home runs en route to a .503 slugging percentage. Juiced ball numbers? Maybe, but facts are facts. Gardner has added pop to his strong defensive performance and leadership. That, in my opinion, is enough to make Gardner the team’s MVP this season.