Dodgers Signing DJ LeMahieu Would be a Mistake
The Dodgers have a hole at second base- they have had one for a while. But time and time again, the Dodgers fill the hole with an older player, someone who has a past of success and a future of unknowns. And, with rumors now surfacing that the Dodgers could make a move for former Rockies’ second baseman, DJ LeMahieu, history could be repeating itself.
It is a frustrating trend. The Dodgers either go after a veteran second baseman or combine a duo or trio of young, non-second baseman with decent bats and average defense to do the job. Neither strategy has panned out. This year’s failures include Brian Dozier and to an extent, Max Muncy. Muncy is not a second baseman. Albeit having a great swing and amazing power, Muncy’s lack of second base experience caused his defense to suffer greatly.
But, heading into the 2019 season there was hope for a change. The Dodgers could test the free agent market or make a trade to add an everyday second baseman. However, DJ Lemahieu, the most recent rumor courtesy of Jon Paul Morosi, is definitely not the right fit.
LeMahieu has had his flashes of glory. From 2015 to 2017, LeMahieu hit a collective .319 with 25 home runs and an .812 OPS. In 2016, LeMahieu lead the major leagues in batting average at .348 and finished 15th in the MVP voting.
But, like many other potential Dodger second baseman, LeMahieu’s success seems to be behind him. And, if you dig just slightly under the surface level numbers, LeMahieu was not even that great in those seasons.
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Excluding 2016, his one truly excellent season, LeMahieu has never had an OPS+ higher than 100. In 2018, he put up an OPS+ of just 88. To put that into perspective, LeMahieu was one of just 13 batters in 2018 to have at least 500 at-bats and not achieve an OPS+ of 90. Another player on that list, Brian Dozier and Dodger fans know all too well how that went.
The issues for LeMahieu do not stop at OPS+. At home (Coors Field) LeMahieu hit .317 with a .360 on-base percentage. On the road, LeMahieu managed to hit just .229 with a .277 on-base percentage. And, as I said before, LeMahieu’s numbers go far beyond his high, Coors Field aided, batting average.
The biggest problem with LeMahieu’s numbers is the way he hits the ball. Coors Field is a launching bad. Put the ball in the air and your chances of hitting a home run are better than almost anywhere else in baseball outside of maybe Cincinnati, Houston and Yankee Stadium. With that in mind, let’s think about the most ideal place to put the ball- up. DJ LeMahieu, a player who has never been regarded for power, has an increasing fly ball percentage. Outside of Coor Field, in Los Angeles for example, putting balls in the air will get knocked down quickly by the Chavez Ravin marine layer.
As good as people think DJ LeMahieu is, he really is not. LeMahieu is the exact player the Dodgers should be avoiding: an aging second baseman who has good enough surface statistics and recent success to demand a sizeable contract.
If we were to look for any positives in a possible deal it would be LeMahieu’s defense. In 2018, the Gold Glover has an 18 DRS and an 11 UZR. He would easily be one of if not the best fielder on the Dodgers roster.
But, at the end of the day, the Dodgers need to acquire offense. The team does not get better from a guy that is aging with statistics that hover at or below league average. Chris Taylor does not play in Coors Field and he outplays LeMahieu almost across the board.
Do the Dodgers need a new, everyday, second baseman? Absolutely. Cutting and pasting young players from their natural positions to second base just to get them in the lineup, has to stop. But, DJ LeMahieu, a player that is not better than anyone on the Dodgers, is not worth the money or the lost playing time for other, better, guys.