Yankees believe LeMahieu’s current slump mere mechanical, not Physical

DJ LeMahieu's walk off ensured the Yankees win against Toronto on April 22, 2023, at Yankee Stadium.
Michael Bennington
Tuesday June 20, 2023

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After a toe injury kept DJ LeMahieu away from the Yankees’ most important part of the 2022 season, the team began 2023 with high expectations from him. However, the veteran is not up to the mark. Though what LeMahieu is currently experiencing is starting to resemble his late-season decline from last year, the Yankees believe he faces a mechanical issue and there is no physical problem to attribute to his slump.

Following a performance in the first game of Sunday’s doubleheader against the Red Sox at Fenway Park, where he went 0-for-4 with two additional strikeouts, LeMahieu’s struggles continued. In his last 24 games, he has a batting average of.167 (15-for-90) and a.491 OPS. These statistics highlight a challenging period for LeMahieu.

LeMahieu’s current performance slump is reminiscent of the difficult period he faced at the end of last season. During that time, he struggled with a sesamoid fracture in his right big toe and ligament damage in his second toe, which affected his performance. In the final 26 games of the season, Big Fundy had a batting average of.162 (16-for-99) and a.344 OPS. This recent stretch is approaching the level of challenge he faced during that time.

LeMahieu’s slump and the Yankees

The current slump of the experienced infielder, LeMahieu, may be even more concerning without an apparent injury. Although many players have been struggling recently, the Yankees are in desperate need of the Big Fundy returning to his previous form.

Despite his struggles, the Yankees have faith that LeMahieu’s problems stem more from mechanical issues than physical ones. They maintain that he is in good health, relying on his own assurance as a 34-year-old player.

Hitting coach Dillon Lawson stated on Sunday, during the break between the doubleheader games won by the Red Sox, that LeMahieu does not mention any compensations or physical issues. Lawson expressed his trust in Big Fundy’s assessment of his own condition.

DJ LeMahieu is seen during his walk off win against Toronto, April 22, 2023, at Yankee Stadium.

According to the Yankees, the problem lies in LeMahieu’s load, specifically the initial part of his swing where he shifts his weight to his back leg before proceeding with his stride.

Lawson mentioned that LeMahieu had a strong start to the year and acknowledged that his load has undergone some adjustments. These changes have resulted in him coming off the ball slightly earlier. Lawson expressed optimism about their recent cage session, believing that they are making progress in getting LeMahieu to stay on the ball and drive it back through the middle, which has been his characteristic approach.

Yankees believe Big Fundy can bounce back

During the initial 37 games of the current season, LeMahieu had a batting average of.276 and an OPS of.802. However, it is worth noting that his strikeout rate during this period was higher than what he has typically maintained throughout his career.

Currently, the frequency of LeMahieu’s strikeouts has become more pronounced, with a strikeout rate of 26.6 percent. This represents the highest rate he has recorded in his 13 seasons in the major leagues. This issue has been further highlighted during his recent month-long slump.

Aaron Boone expects that LeMahieu to be on the Yankees' Opening Day roster.

Manager Aaron Boone remarked on his observation regarding LeMahieu’s performance, mentioning that his preload was not as optimal as he was accustomed to seeing. Boone suggested that this may be related to how he is loading before his swing. However, Boone remains confident that once Big Fundy resolves this issue and finds his rhythm, his hitting abilities will shine through. Boone encouraged the player to continue working hard and persevering in his efforts to improve.

Even with three years and $45 million remaining on his contract, LeMahieu has maintained an average exit velocity of 90.9 mph this season, which places him in the 71st percentile among all MLB players.

However, his average exit velocity has declined each month. It was 93.3 mph in April, 89 mph in May, and currently stands at 88.7 mph in June. When hitting coach Casey Dykes joined the team in 2020, Lawson said LeMahieu showed them his excellent and terrible swings, explaining what his load looks like when it’s good and what it looks like when it’s bad.

Lawson shared that he still has video footage on his phone from the spring training cage session, and he noticed the problematic load from LeMahieu approximately three weeks ago.

According to Lawson, he recognized that the coaching staff had acknowledged the issue and had been actively addressing it for some time. He mentioned that such adjustments can require a significant amount of time and effort, even if they involve correcting a habit that the player has consistently had. Lawson emphasized the need for patience in allowing LeMahieu to regain his previous form.

He added that initially, they subtly suggested focusing on the front hip and keeping the shoulder in. However, over time, there has been a greater emphasis on these aspects during batting practice. Lawson clarified that they are not making drastic changes but rather placing additional focus and concentration on refining LeMahieu’s technique.

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