Before the season started, many people in baseball wondered whether DJ LeMahieu could finish the season with a .400 average. They figured that there wouldn’t be a better opportunity for him to do so than this year: only 60 games on the calendar, coming off his best offensive output in 2019, and still in the prime of his career.
After all, LeMahieu showed last year that he can hit any pitch and do pretty much whatever he wants with the bat. He can slug, he has unmatched bat-to-ball skills, he doesn’t strike out often, and he is very good at driving pitches the other way. He already has a batting title, with the Rockies back in 2016 (he finished with a .348 average), but .400 is a completely different kind of goal.
For starters, no one has ever done it since 1941. Batting .400 in our days is also arguably tougher: it is common for pitchers to touch or even sit in the high-90s, and their breaking stuff is just nasty. However, he has the advantage of the short season; he doesn’t need to hold that average for 162 games.
So far, so good.
After 17 games, he has an average of .431. That is comfortably the best mark in the American League, as the second-ranked Bo Bichette is at .352. A former teammate, Charlie Blackmon, is pacing MLB with a mind-blowing .472, and Donovan Solano is second with .458.
But back to LeMahieu. It’s wild to think that this man recovered from COVID-19, came back, put on his uniform, and started raking almost immediately upon returning.
Pacing the American League
LeMahieu’s .431/.479/.569 is simply outstanding, as are his .454 wOBA and 195 wRC+ (fourth in the majors, first in the American League.) His 1.0 fWAR is fifth in the league and, again, the premier mark in the AL.
In his 17 games, The Machine has a couple of home runs, 14 runs and eight RBI. He has a 7% walk rate, and even managed to trim his strikeout rate from 13.7% last season to 8.5% this time around.
Vintage DJ LeMahieu drives the ball to right field with authority with line drives, and as he showed on Wednesday night, he did just that. He went 4-for-5 against the Atlanta Braves and all he did was pound the ball to the center-right portion of the field, including this triple:
Most multi-hit games since last season:— MUHzzilli (@MUHzzilli) August 13, 2020
DJ LEMAHIEU - 68
Ketal Marte - 67
Whit Merrifield - 63
Jorge Polanco - 62
Rafael Devers - 62
Charlie Blackmon - 62
“I feel pretty locked in right now,” he said to MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch after the game. “I’m just part of a really good lineup and I’m just trying to do my part to get on base. If I get on base, I feel like we’re in good shape to score runs. Just trying to be tough on the pitchers.”
If there is one thing I would change from LeMahieu’s batted-ball profile, it would be hitting a few more line drives and flies and cutting his sky-high 62.7% groundball rate. For every fly ball, he is hitting 4.63 grounders. But of course, who am I to change this hitting phenom?
LeMahieu remains a Statcast darling, even if his barrel percentage and hard-hit rate aren’t as high as they were last year...
So, time will put every piece in their right place. Maybe he will have a better shot at finishing with a .400 average by hitting hard groundballs most of the time. But one thing is true: more than a quarter of the season has now passed, and he is still at .431. He could have a shot, and it would be a pretty cool achievement.