DJ LeMahieu Deserves to Play to Win Batting Title
The final three games of the season for the Colorado Rockies are upon us. The Milwaukee Brewers visit Coors Field starting on Friday for a series that has no postseason impact whatsoever.
But hey, at least there are fireworks tonight, right? At least there are a couple more sunsets to enjoy with a beer in hand, watching the future of the Rockies continue to take shape.
However, there’s more to the final series than just putting a symbolic bow on the 2016 season. There’s also a batting title chase at hand with Colorado’s DJ LeMahieu taking center stage.
Heading into Friday, LeMahieu has a .349 average for the season. That’s good enough to lead all of Major League Baseball. Hot on his heels is Daniel Murphy of the Washington Nationals, with a .347 average.
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Here’s where it gets tricky. Murphy has been out since September 17 with strained buttocks and Washington manager Dusty Baker has said he doesn’t intend to use Murphy until the postseason begins.
So Murphy sits and can’t raise his average. But what about LeMahieu? DJ isn’t injured, but has found himself on the bench plenty as of late.
Colorado manager Walt Weiss recently said that he would sit the All-Star second baseman down the stretch if it would help him secure the batting title. It’s a similar plan to what Weiss did in 2014 with Justin Morneau when he won the batting crown.
“We’ll play it by ear. I’ve taken a lot of heat for something like this, with Morneau, and I’ll fall on the sword, for sure, for DJ,” Weiss recently told The Denver Post. “When it comes down to sitting out an at-bat or two, whatever it looks like, I’m willing to do that to get him the batting title.”
LeMahieu doesn’t seem so thrilled about the idea.
“I don’t really enjoy that,” he told The Denver Post. “It’s not how I got here, it’s not how I played all year. And now that we are officially out of (the playoffs), it makes it harder. It’s more difficult to concentrate on winning. We don’t have that urgency we had a couple of weeks ago.”
While no means scientific, we did a Twitter poll yesterday, asking Rockies Twitter if they’d rather see LeMahieu take at-bats down the stretch and risk the title or sit on the bench and win it. Of the 54 votes, 85% said they’d rather see LeMahieu battle for the crown on the field.
I agree. But neither I nor anyone on Rockies Twitter is calling the shots.
LeMahieu played in just one game in the San Francisco series, going 1-for-4 in Tuesday’s loss. That dropped his average from .350 to .349.
Let’s look at some simple numbers. LeMahieu’s worst month of the whole season came in April when he hit .291. He’s backed up a .439 tear in August with a .371 mark in September.
He’s batting .370 in his last seven games and .417 in his last 15 outings. Do we really think he’s suddenly going to hit a cold snap with three games left in the season?
Sure, it’s possible. Unlikely, but possible. But Rockies fans and even LeMahieu seem to think it’s worth the risk.
In a season that has ended in a very disappointing way, watching LeMahieu and Nolan Arenado post numbers that lead all of the Major League Baseball is the silver lining. However, it would be even sweeter for the Rockies faithful to see LeMahieu continue to show the rest of MLB the kind of hitter we’ve seen all season.
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Here’s hoping DJ gets plenty of at-bats this weekend at Coors Field. He’s worked all season to get to this point … and deserves his moment in the sun and admiration from Colorado fans.