clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Rockies' DJ LeMahieu is no offensive fluke

New, comments

DJ LeMahieu's average is up to .342 after going 3-for-3 on Tuesday. Here's how he's been able to do it.

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

It would be easy to look at Colorado Rockies second baseman DJ LeMahieu's home/away splits and immediately write him off as a product of Coors Field. After all, LeMahieu's .399/.490/.616 home batting line aided by a .429 batting average on balls in play results in an OPS that is almost 400 points higher than his road production.

But for LeMahieu, who has reached base in nine consecutive plate appearances entering the Rockies' Wednesday afternoon tilt against the Nationals, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that his current hitting performance -- while not entirely sustainable -- is far from a fluke.

The first thing to look at when evaluating how LeMahieu has hit .342 to this point in the season is his plate discipline. The one-time All-Star has the 12th-lowest swinging percentage in the National League on pitches outside of the strike zone. That speaks to his improved selectivity at the plate; in each of his four full big league seasons, LeMahieu's walk rate has climbed steadily -- from 4.4 percent in 2013 to 10.9 percent this year.

LeMahieu has coupled his ability to lay off pitches outside of the zone with a truly elite contact rate. Out of all qualified NL hitters, his 90.5 percent contact rate ranks third, behind only Martin Prado and Ender Inciarte.

Where LeMahieu is able to separate himself from that pair of slap-hitting former Arizona Diamondbacks is with his ability to make consistently hard contact. Only six NL players have a lower soft contact rate than LeMahieu's 12.6 percent, and he also ranks 34th among 77 qualified senior-circuit position players in hard-hit rate at 35.5 percent -- a few ticks above the league-average mark of 31.5, according to Fangraphs.

MLB's Statcast tells a similar tale. LeMahieu ranks second in the NL and eighth in all of baseball in hits with an exit velocity of 100 mph or more. Of the seven players who rank above him, five -- Miguel Cabrera, Mark Trumbo, Manny Machado, Nelson Cruz and Josh Donaldson -- have hit more home runs this season than LeMahieu has in his entire career.

That's a testament to LeMahieu's ability to hit liners all over the field; only eight NL players have a higher line-drive rate than his 25.5 percent. And nobody goes the other way with them more judging by LeMahieu's 36.3 percent opposite-field hit rate, which is behind only Howie Kendrick -- who is inferior at hitting line drives.

LeMahieu may have mastered Coors Field, but his road OPS this season is better than his overall OPS was entering 2016. That everything is coming together for LeMahieu in his age-27 season, when most players enter their physical prime, isn't just a coincidence -- and it should have Rockies fans excited for the next couple of seasons, when he could truly come into his own before becoming a free agent following the 2018 campaign.