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  • E.J. Fagan

The Yankees Need DJ LeMahieu Back

by EJ Fagan

May 22, 2024


NOTE: The following comes from EJ Fagan's substack page and is shared with permission. This was published a few days ago so the stats don't include the last few games.

Please check out EJ's substack page for more great articles.


Why is Anthony Volpe still leading off?

Volpe has made a lot of progress this season, but is still hitting just .270/.343/.427 on the season, and worse overall in the leadoff position. That’s great for an elite defensive shortstop and baserunner (If the season ended today, Volpe would rightfully earn MVP votes), but not great for the player batting in front of Juan Soto and Aaron Judge. Pitchers have pretty much stopped allowing Volpe to draw walks since he moved up in front of two of the three best hitters in baseball. He might be able to go back to a pesky on base role in front of the Jose Trevinos of the world.

The Yankees had an obvious candidate to lead off not named Volpe all season: Alex Verdugo. He’s in his own awkward batting order spot as the leadoff hitter, despite hitting .237/.266/.390 since being moved up. When he was hitting well, Verdugo was getting on base a lot more than Volpe, at least against right-handed pitchers. Why wasn’t he moved up to take Volpe’s spot in the batting order? Why is a low-power, high-contact, average-ish hitter protecting Aaron Judge? And why isn’t Verdugo platooning given that he’s hitting .186/.321/.279 against left-handed pitchers?

The answer to all these questions has the same answer: the Yankees have too many left-handed hitters.

I know! It’s weird, given how long we were all desperate for the team to add left-handed bats. But, the Yankees are now balanced toward left-handed batters with pretty heavy platoon splits:

  • Verdugo: .765 OPS vs. Righties, .600 OPS vs. Lefties

  • Rizzo: .829 OPS vs. Righties, .421 OPS vs Lefties

  • Cabrera: .695 OPS vs. Righties, .631 OPS vs. Lefties

  • Soto: 1.015 OPS vs. Righties, .872 OPS vs. Lefties

The imbalance has two consequences: the Yankees are 26-9 against righty starters and 6-6 against lefty starters. They also can’t really write a lineup with Soto/Judge at 2/3 without a righty leading off and a lefty batting cleanup.

As the Yankees begin to optimize their team for the playoffs, they need to find ways to sit Rizzo, Verdugo and Cabrera more often against left-handed starters.

Enter DJ LeMahieu.

LeMahieu was supposed to be the leadoff guy this season. The veteran hit a healthy .273/.377/.432 after the 2023 All Star Break. He has consistently hit lefties much better throughout his career. If he can simply replicate his performance in the second half last year, LeMahieu will be a huge upgrade over Volpe. And maybe he has another gear left in him once he recovers from a freak injury.

With LeMahieu, Volpe becomes a real asset at 7 or 8. He can steal ahead of a big singles hitter in Trevino. Maybe he plays 1st against left-handed starters. Yankees third basemen have hit .265/.307/.361 in 2024 (21st in baseball). LeMahieu will almost certainly be a huge improvement.

But, he doesn’t solve the Verdugo problem. The Yankees still need a left-handed hitter to bat 4th. Anthony Rizzo was supposed to be that guy, but he’s been slumping more than he has been hot this season:

Still, the bigger problem is that Verdugo really shouldn’t see any plate appearances against left-handed pitchers. He has a long history of massive platoon splits. Rizzo at least has a track record of hitting lefties well enough.

I think the Yankees need a right-handed hitting bench outfielder. They would platoon with Verdugo, plus play a big role as a pinch hitter. Luckily, that player shouldn’t be too hard to find on the trade market. A quick glance at losing teams reveals names like Taylor Ward, Kevin Pillar and Nick Senzel.

Could there be an internal solution? Giancarlo Stanton could of course play the outfield, but I don’t think he would be much of an asset out there.

In the minors, Everson Pereira’s 33% strikeout rate doesn’t exactly inspire confidence, although his .261/.341/.516 batting line at Triple-A is intriguing. Oscar Gonzalez is hitting well, but has career reverse platoon splits. Ditto for Caleb Durbin. Jasson Dominguez has always been a stronger left-handed batter, and they probably don’t want him in the majors without playing every day. Spencer Jones isn’t close to ready. I think they need to swing a trade.

I don’t want to overstate the problem. The Yankees are in first place and on track to win 110 games. LeMahieu will help the problem a lot. But it’s time to start thinking about the small changes that the Yankees could make to help this team win a World Series.

15 commentaires

Robert Malchman
Robert Malchman
22 mai

I'm sorry, but the points here are flat-out absurd. After 50 games, hardly a small sample size, Volpe has a .341 OBP. The only better ones are Soto and Judge, and while there's an argument for one of them to lead-off, I don't see anyone making it. Verdugo is down at .326. BTW, Volpe is outslugging Verdugo by 13 points, too. Oh, and you know who also has a better OBP this season than Verdugo? Jose Trevino. Maybe you want to argue he should lead off instead of Volpe?

As for DJ, his OBP from 2023 was .327, so again Volpe '24 is materially better than LeMahieu '23, and the last time DJ had a better OBP that year was…

Robert Malchman
Robert Malchman
23 mai
En réponse à

During his 15-game hitting streak, Volpe is now (after 4 PAs tonight) enjoying a .357 OBP. So leading off, while initially rough this season, has been working out for him for the last half month.


Alan B.
Alan B.
22 mai

The Yankees have a few things roster/lineup wise that need fixing.


4th OF

Leadoff hitter.

Using speed on offense.

My question is: Is the return of LeMahieu (who isn't playing today for HV) an answer for my 2, 3, 4 things on the list ? Does Cabrera become the 4th OF with DJ back? Do they unshackle Volpe once he moves down in the lineup?


Paul Semendinger
Paul Semendinger
22 mai

EJ and I disagree on this one.

I like Volpe is the leadoff spot after being the guy against it forever. But he's there now. And I would simply let him be.

Paul Semendinger
Paul Semendinger
22 mai
En réponse à

Fuster - You just came up with the Readers' Question for next Sunday...


22 mai

Volpe has made a lot of progress this season, but is still hitting just .270/.343/.427

.343. suffices and being a good baserunner helps

LeMahieu is a good, mature hitter and a real pain in a pitcher's backside. he'll be valuable hacking between Verdugo and Rizzo.. ..after Stanton cools off

and can start his season batting after Rizzo

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