By Chris Melore
The 2019 regular season has reached its end and, before the playoffs begin, writers from across America will be sending in their votes for the Most Valuable Player in both leagues.
While Angels superstar Mike Trout wowed fans with his greatness for five months and Houston’s Alex Bregman made a late charge in the mind of many baseball beat writers — there’s another man that has quietly outperformed the field this year.
He doesn’t have a $400 million contract and he didn’t even slug 30 homers, but the most consistent, indispensable, and “valuable” player in the American League this season is the Yankees’ DJ LeMahieu — and it’s not even that close.
Don’t believe it? Here are the undisputable facts that back “LeMachine”:
1.) LeMahieu is the most clutch player in baseball this season. Fact.
The 31-year-old wasn’t just clutch in 2019, he was a lethal weapon in scoring opportunities.
LeMahieu reached the 100 RBI mark on Friday, even though he’s spent the bulk of the season batting leadoff for New York driving in the team’s 7-8-9 batters. He knocked in 92 runs from the leadoff position, the second-most in franchise history.
If your team needed a big hit in 2019, there was statistically no one better than LeMahieu with runners on base. Here’s how his two chief competitors stack up against the Yankees’ utility man in three key hitting situations:
Runners In Scoring Position:
- LeMahieu – .389 (leads MLB)
- Trout – .297
- Bregman – .244
With The Bases Loaded:
- LeMahieu – .667 (10-for-15)
- Trout – .500 (9-for-18)
- Bregman – .200 (2-for-10)
Late And Close (batting in a one-run game in the 7th inning or later):
- LeMahieu – .282, 13 RBI
- Trout – .241, 19 RBI
- Bregman – .197, 9 RBI
If the Astros’ Alex Bregman is awarded the AL MVP, he would have the lowest average with runners in scoring position in 56 years. Only 1963 MVP Elston Howard (.227) was worse in the clutch. No AL MVP has even hit under .300 in those situations since A-Rod in 2005.
2.) LeMahieu was so consistently good in 2019, it’s kinda scary.
While Trout missed the pivotal month of September and Bregman didn’t get hot until August, the Yankee infielder was displaying MVP-caliber play for 162 games.
More than that, “LeMachine” recorded one of the most balanced seasons in history. He was simply great everywhere in 2019. Day or night, home or road, the Yankees kept getting the same All-Star performance no matter the situation.
Here are some of LeMahieu’s shocking splits in 2019:
- Hit .329 during the day. Hit .329 at night.
- Hit .338 with 54 RBI at home. Hit .321 with 48 RBI on the road.
- Hit .336 with 12 homers in the first half. Hit .319 with 14 homers in the second half.
- Hit .331 in innings 1-3. Hit .330 in inning 4-6. Hit .333 in innings 7-9.
He also never hit below .282 in any single month — leading to his 2nd-place finish in the AL batting title race.
— YES Network (@YESNetwork) September 28, 2019
3.) LeMahieu has played Gold Glove defense at not one, not two, but three different positions!
The three-time Gold Glove Award winner has been making a case to win three more — all in the same season!
LeMahieu has played at least 39 games at first, second, and third base this season. Despite constantly moving around the diamond, he’s made a total of eight errors in the field.
That shockingly low number includes making just two errors at first base, a position LeMahieu had only played four times in his entire career before 2019.
The 31-year-old’s defensive versatility has literally kept the injury-plagued Yankee infield afloat.
Here’s a brief list of everyone DJ LeMahieu has filled in for around the diamond due to injury:
- Luke Voit
- Edwin Encarnacion
- Greg Bird
- Kendrys Morales
- Gleyber Torres
- Gio Urshela
- Miguel Andujar
4.) Speaking of injuries, the Yankees would not have run away with the AL East without a healthy LeMahieu in 2019.
New York set a dubious record as the most injured team in baseball history this year.
With 30 different players on the Injured List, someone had to be the stabilizing force that kept the Yankees in the division race with Tampa Bay. That force was LeMahieu.
Unlike every other major star in the New York lineup, the 31-year-old avoided serious injury and played at least 19 games in every month of the regular season.
LeMahieu took home AL Player of the Month honors in June, hitting a blistering .395 with 29 RBI.
Why is this valuable? New York was 2 1/2 games in front of the Rays when that month started; they were 7 games ahead by the time June ended and never looked back.
“LeMachine” all but finished off the Rays on July 4 with another clutch hit. New York won the AL East division for the first time since 2012 thanks in large part to the steady force of their team leader in RBI, Runs, Hits, Total Bases, Average, and Games Played.
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) July 5, 2019
5.) Mike Trout is a great player, but he didn’t finish the season and his team stunk even when he was still there.
There’s no denying Trout was the best player in the sport for the first five months of the season. A foot injury derailed him however, and he wouldn’t play again after Sept. 7.
The 28-year-old finished 2019 with 45 homers and 104 RBI and was far and away having the best season of his Hall of Fame career.
There’s an award for that: it’s called the Hank Aaron Award.
“Awarded annually to the best overall offensive performer in both leagues… Aaron, along with a panel of other Hall of Famers, determine the winners along with a fan vote,” according to MLB.
It’s not Trout’s fault the Angels are so bad they were eliminated from the playoff race before he even got hurt, but rewarding a player on a 90-loss club doesn’t make sense either.
To compare, let’s look at Ken Griffey Jr. for a second.
Griffey is widely considered the greatest player of the 1990’s, but he only won a single AL MVP because the Seattle Mariners could never reach October. Griffey’s only MVP came in 1997 when Seattle won their division and the Hall of Fame outfielder actually stayed healthy through a full season.
There may not be a written criteria for MVP voters that defines “most valuable,” but an injured player on a losing team isn’t the right choice, no matter how talented he is, ask Ken Griffey Jr.
Read more columns by Chris Melore