David John LeMahieu.
The man is full of surprises. In 2013 he established himself as the Rockies' everyday second baseman with incredible defensive skill that balanced out his light bat. In 2014 he put up 2.2 dWAR and won a Gold Glove for his efforts, but he received plenty of criticism from Rockies fans for his offensive regression.
Fast forward to 2015. DJ got off to an incredibly hot start at the plate, and his batting average remained above .400 until early May. He cooled off over the rest of the season but still wound up hitting .301 with vastly improved on-base and slugging numbers. Still, detractors pointed to his defense having regressed to a merely "above average" level, and noted that his offense was still substandard.
After the season was over, I wrote that DJ had "stuck it to the haters" with his improvement in 2015, which featured him starting in the All-Star Game. My impassioned defense was met with several comments arguing that the Rockies should "sell high" on DJ, who had clearly put up unsustainable offensive numbers in April and had ridden them until the end of the year. Where are those people now? I'm sorry, I can't hear you over the sound of him winning the batting title the very next season.
Yep. DJ hit .348 in 2016. In 2014 his slugging percentage was .348. This is Colorado Buffaloes type improvement we're talking about here, people. Oh, and speaking of slugging percentage: DJ slugged .495 in 2016, which was 107 points higher than the previous season and 147 points higher than 2014. Long known as a singles machine, DJ hit 32 doubles and 11 home runs this season. In 2014 and 2015 combined he hit 36 doubles and 11 home runs.
You want more DJ improvement stats? You've come to the right place. His OPS of .911 was two-hundred-and-forty-eight (248) points higher than his 2014 OPS. It went from .663 to .746 to .911 in three years. In his first four seasons in the big leagues, he was worth exactly 0 offensive WAR. He put up 2 oWAR in 2015, and added a massive 4.9 this year for a total of 6.9 oWAR over the last two seasons. Nice!
Did I mention he won the batting title? Yeah, Walt Weiss sat him for the final week of the season, but no one will remember that in thirty years. And this wasn't your lame, .319 Justin Morneau batting title either. DJ hit .348, which is the highest average posted by any major leaguer since 2010. DJ LeMahieu! The guy whose on-base percentage two years ago was .315. That guy!
Perhaps the only things that weren't sunshine and rainbows about DJ's 2016 were his baserunning and his defense. He wasn't nearly as good at stealing bases as he was in 2015; swiping 11 in 18 attempts compared to 23 out of 26 the previous year. And his defense, while still very strong, hasn't returned to the Gold Glove level it was at in 2014. Imagine, if you dare, DJ putting his 2014 defense, 2015 base stealing and 2016 offense together in 2017. Frightening, isn't it?
And yet, there are still some who, in the face of all of the evidence, still don't consider DJ LeMahieu a legitimate star. To those people I say this:
Over the last three seasons, DJ LeMahieu has won a Gold Glove, started the All-Star Game, and won a batting title. What have you done with your life?
If he continues to improve at his current rate, DJ will become the first player since Ted Williams to hit .400 in a season, while also leading the team in home runs.