Why Yankees’ DJ LeMahieu shouldn’t bat leadoff when he returns

New York Yankees, DJ LeMahieu

Yankees’ infielder DJ LeMahieu has been out with a sprained left thumb for the last week. Aaron Boone has said that he is progressing very well and should be back in the coming weeks. He’s second in the league in batting average and is a massive part of the Yankees’ success this year. But, there might be a way to make him even more useful.

After last year’s all-star break, Aaron Boone led LeMahieu off in the Yankees’ lineup. Since then, he has been fantastic and has made that his permanent spot. I think he is one of the better leadoff hitters in the league, but I think he could be more useful at another spot. LeMahieu’s fantastic season was built on a great average with runners in scoring position and on his ability to constantly get on base. His great OBP is what makes him so good in that leadoff spot, but some people might view average with RISP a more valuable stat. With LeMahieu batting leadoff, it almost takes away that stat completely.

He has to rely on players at the bottom of the lineup to get on base. However, if LeMahieu batted in the three spots every game, he would be behind guys like Judge and Hicks. They both get on base at high rates, which gives LeMahieu the opportunity to hit them in. This would make the Yankees score more in the first inning and force opposing starting pitchers to throw more pitches early on in the game.

How does this help the Yankees?

This strategy doesn’t work all the time. However, with players like Judge, Hicks, and Voit possibly hitting before LeMahieu, it’s bound to happen at a frequent rate. This would solve a huge problem that the Yankees have. A lot of the Yankees losses this season have been because they haven’t been able to score early. New York then finds themselves playing catch-up for most of the game. With the Yankees’ starting rotation struggling, they need to find a way to give starting pitchers a little breathing room early on in the game.

There are a lot of positives to batting LeMahieu first as well. He has the best on-base percentage on a team driven by power. Him getting on base gives players like Judge and Stanton a chance to drive him in. However, I think there are more positives if you bat DJ in the three spots as opposed to leadoff. It will no doubt make the Yankees a better first-inning team, which will come in clutch this year.

With doubleheader games being shortened and opposing starting pitchers in October being so dominant, New York needs to figure out a way to score early in games. It’s a must for a championship team. LeMahieu will still be able to hit very well while still getting a great number of at-bats. This is something I think Boone needs to look into doing.