DJ LeMahieu Putting Together Another Solid Season
By Kevin Henry
It was just a year ago that DJ LeMahieu made his first appearance in the All-Star Game, starting and representing the Colorado Rockies at second base. An “under the radar” selection at the position, LeMahieu is still going along quietly doing his business on the diamond while not attracting much attention around the nation.
If you seek LeMahieu out in the clubhouse before a Rockies game, he’s usually at his locker, prepping for the game ahead. While others may be boisterous or joking around with teammates, LeMahieu is already in game mode. He’s always willing to talk to the media, but he’s not one to seek the spotlight. He’d rather just do his job in the best way that he can.
Heading into Monday’s action against the Los Angeles Dodgers, LeMahieu was once again posting another solid, respectable season. His .299 average (55-for-184) ranks fourth among NL second basemen and he’s upped that by hitting .318 since May 13, a stretch in which he’s hit safely in 15 of 19 games.
During a recent 11-game hitting streak, LeMahieu was hitting at a .375 clip. That included a career-high tying four hits (the second time he’s done that) and a career-best four runs in a 17-4 blasting of the Cincinnati Reds at Coors Field.
“DJ continues to grow as a hitter. I’ve always felt like he would because of his baseball IQ and feel for the game,” Colorado manager Walt Weiss said. “He has the ability to make adjustments. His work ethic and all of those things tell you he’s going to get better and he has. He’s become a very good offensive player. He’s multi-dimensional so I can hit him in different spots in the order. He’s settled pretty nicely into that two hole in the order and has performed well there.”
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LeMahieu recorded a hit in nine consecutive games to start the 2016 season, including two hits in each of the first five games of the year. That’s the longest streak to start a season in Rockies history.
“He’s mature enough now that he can pick spots to drive the ball to the pull side of the field,” Weiss said. “It’s not often but he’s mature enough to understand when the time is right to do that with certain counts or a certain pitcher or a certain part of the game.”
Often known as a hitter for average, LeMahieu has also shown pop in his bat this season. He hit a home run in consecutive games April 5-6 at Arizona, marking the first time in his career he hit a home run in consecutive games.
After hitting a career-high six homers last season, LeMahieu already has three this season.
“He has more raw power than most people think,” Weiss said. “If you watch him in BP, he can hit the ball in the seats.
“He does multiple things well. I think the extra-base hits are going to increase over the course of his career and I think it’s going to come mostly in the form of doubles. There’s juice in the bat. He handles it very well.”
Still, LeMahieu hasn’t shied away from one of his best qualities, and that’s making contact and putting the ball into play. Entering Sunday, Charlie Blackmon (27.7%) and LeMahieu (27.5%) ranked second and third in the National League in line-drive percentage.
“A lot of players would give a lot of money to do what he does well … shoot the ball the other way and hit the ball from line to line. That’s a great strength to have,” Weiss said.
Another of LeMahieu’s great strengths lies in his defensive capabilities. He’s one of the founding members of the “Coors Shield” thanks to his abilities to make the extraordinary look ordinary in the infield. We’ll talk about his defense in a later article.
“DJ is the most under-the-radar-type guy, but he is a great player,” Nolan Arenado said prior to last year’s All-Star Game. “He is not flashy, but when you watch him, he plays the game hard every day, and he makes the big plays. He just does it so calmly.”
Next: Why Nolan Needs to Keep Showing Some Emotion
When the first report of the All-Star Game voting for the National League squad came out last week, DJ LeMahieu wasn’t even in the top five vote-getters at second base. Deep down, that’s probably OK with him. He’d rather just focus on getting better and helping the Rockies become a consistent winner.