DJ LeMahieu just keeps hitting. In fact, if it weren't for Trevor Story's historic start to the 2016 season, we might be talking a little bit more about LeMahieu's .526 average and two home runs in his first five games of the season. He's doing it by intensifying an area of his game in which he already excels, but so far this season, his results have unexpected results.
Among all qualified batters in 2015, LeMahieu had the lowest pull rate, according to FanGraphs. Not only that, but his 21.2 percent pull percentage was not even close to second place Jean Segura's 24.8 percent mark, and it was even further away from third place Nick Markakis's 28.7 percent mark. This is how LeMahieu found success at the plate in 2015.
So far this season, LeMahieu is pulling the ball at an absurdly low rate. Just 11.8 percent of his balls have been pulled so far this season. In other words, he's getting more extreme at an aspect of his game that has fueled his success. So far this year, he's been barreling the ball either up the middle, or he's gone the other way.
Asked if these results were the product of a conscious effort, LeMahieu indicated that he hasn't changed anything in particular—"nothing conscious." He also acknowledges that five games is a small sample. Yet, it's hard to ignore the fact, at least so far, the opposition has not been able to neutralize LeMahieu's greatest strength at the plate.
There's more to LeMahieu's hot start, however. Though the sample is small, and the final leaderboards will look drastically different, right now LeMahieu is hitting the ball with extreme authority. MLB Advanced Media's Daren Wilman tweeted that LeMahieu has the second most balls in play with an exit velocity over 100 mph. He has one more than Carlos González. Asked what he thinks about being included in such company, he had a simple response: "that's pretty cool." He feels that he is "in a good place" and is "squaring some balls up." The numbers agree.
While there re surprises in LeMahieu's profile so far in 2016, ultimately he's excelling by knowing his strengths at the plate. As the season progresses, both of these data points will normalize. But right now, there's no doubt that LeMahieu has been earning his hits. And he's been doing it in both expected and unexpected ways.