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PSA Plays the Show: Checking in on the Yankees’ power

Good news for LeMahieu fans, while the juiced ball debate continues

It’s always tough to evaluate a player after a career year. Before coming to New York, DJ LeMahieu was a barely league-average hitter, worth 1.95 fWAR/650 PAs. Last year, in the Bronx, he had a 5.4-win season and was the best player on a 103-win team.

He had one season like that before, in 2016, following it up with two campaigns that were the definition of mediocre. One of the big questions around the Yankees in 2020 was whether the LeMahieu we saw in pinstripes was going to be the one that stuck around, or if he was due for another disappointing followup.

We may never know what the real 2020 LeMahieu season looks like, but in our MLB The Show simulation, he’s been as good and then some, second on the team with eight home runs through 30 games. Assuming a 150-game season—he’s averaged 148 over the last five years—that would represent a career 40 dingers for DJ, outpacing last year’s 26, his previous career high.

That’s not the only thing LeMahieu’s improved upon, as his 1.051 OPS (!) eclipses his previous career high, again in 2019, by 158 points. Anyone who doubted whether LeMahieu would continue being a stalwart member of the lineup has been proven wrong, at least in this timeline.

The club leader in long balls, meanwhile, makes me even happier, as Gary Sanchez paces the team with nine. Just like 2019, Sanchez is off to a historical start in the power department, and hopefully he doesn’t cool down like he did down the stretch last year. Writing about Gary is one of my favorite things to do on this site, and I’d like to keep that up, even if it’s just about virtual Sanchez.

The other narrative to follow around the league is the “juiced ball”, or rather the home run’s impact on the game as a whole:

The league has cooled off from the pace of 2019, which many fans found to be the definition of Too Many Home Runs. Through about the first month, MLB’s standing at 1.24 HR/game, almost bang on the average from 2017. In short, there are still a lot of home runs in simulated MLB, but not quite as many as we’ve seen in previous real seasons.

Power is just a permanent part of the MLB approach these days, and The Show is no exception. For all the criticism of the game’s wonky managerial decisions, the production team takes great care in modelling things like fielder and ball physics to be as close to real life as possible, and it seems at least in one sim, that’s been done right.