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Yankees Missed At-Bat of the Week: DJ LeMahieu (5/10)

Like many of his at-bats, this one is well worthy of recollection.

Toronto Blue Jays v New York Yankees Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

DJ LeMahieu is always good for one great at-bat in any given week, regardless of the result. He is the type of hitter that won’t wow you with towering home runs, but what he does do is make you hit your spots. When he is on, he has few holes in his swing, and can hit barrels to any part of the ballpark. To get him out, you must have a plan A, B, and C in mind. If he decides he isn’t going to let you beat him with any one pitch, then you have to adjust.

Back in May, Yusei Kikuchi fell victim to LeMahieu’s approach and lost an at-bat where he has ahead in the count, and DJ hadn’t taken a single swing on time. It’s just what happens when you face hitters who refuse to lose.

Don’t get me wrong, hitters don’t ever give in to striking out. Walking back to the dugout after a strikeout is a sad, lonely experience. However, some hitters have swings and hit tools that let them battle more so than others, and LeMahieu is one of those hitters. Now, let’s see exactly what I mean by that by taking you through his at-bat against Kikuchi on May 10th.

To start an at-bat, this just isn’t somewhere you’re going to get LeMahieu to chase. I respect setting the tone though. I wish more pitchers in baseball used their fastball in on hands in today’s game, like Kikuchi did here. It establishes that you’re not afraid to come inside and try to beat the hitter to the painful part of the barrel.

Pitch 2

This is as cookie as cookie gets! DJ missed this one, and it looks like he tried to stay too inside of the baseball. It led to him cutting off the chunky part of the baseball and fouling it back. Like I said, Kikuchi’s setup pitch moved LeMahieu’s eyes in and led to a subpar swing on a pitch that should have been laced. DJ needed to make the adjustment in the 0-2 count if he wanted to get his barrel out further.

Pitch 3

This is a sensible pitch. Kikuchi tried to get a chase on his changeup, but he started the pitch too far out of the zone for it to be challenging for the Yankees’ infielder. I’ve seen this script before against DJ. Pitchers try and get him to chase on waste pitches, and it doesn’t work. Kikuchi needed to be better on the next pitch.

Pitch 4

I think Kikuchi was going for soft contact here. It was a very good spot after reading DJ’s 0-1 hack. Why not try and get a quick out if your hunch is that the hitter isn’t on your heater? It’s a good plan, but he would have to execute it again after LeMahieu proved it wasn’t quite good enough to beat him this time around.

Pitch 5

Okay, the intention here was absolutely to get a swing and miss. Kikuchi knew he had him beat with the velocity, so perhaps raising the location would be enough to miss the bat entirely. It was a good pitch, but this isn’t an area LeMahieu swings at all that often against left-handed pitchers. In total, he swung at 81 of the 266 pitches he saw in this area of the zone in 2022, but only 18 of those came against lefties. If his eyes are already in the area, it’s unlikely he chases. For that reason, I don’t like the pitch selection, and I think Kikuchi wasn’t confident in enough in his other offerings to finish him off. The final pitch proved that to be true.

Pitch 6

This is poor execution on the pitch, but that’s exactly why Kikuchi stayed away from it in the previous one. LeMahieu was a little behind on the heater, and throwing the back foot slider would only speed his bat up. Kikuchi would have needed to be very precise on this pitch to get DJ, and this was not precise. He made him pay and laced a laser to the bottom of the left field wall. That is what DJ does. If you don’t execute for the entire at-bat, you’re doomed. Fingers crossed hope LeMahieu is healthy this season, as the Yankee offense could really use this exact skill.