Bringing DJ LeMahieu back has given the New York Yankees yet another great problem: who should be the leadoff hitter? Though the past two seasons DJ has served as the leadoff hitter most games, there may be a better place for LeMahieu in the lineup; After all, his incredible .RISP stats could be used more often in a spot where more players will be on base.
On the other hand, Aaron Hicks could be manager Aaron Boone‘s perfect replacement. A speedy switch hitter, Hicks hits all the boxes of a typical leadoff guy, with a consistently high BB%, .OBP, and the ability to steal (despite few attempts the past two years). Should Boone make the switch?
DJ/Hicks Statistical Comparison
LeMahieu Career Stats: 4242 AB, 1294 H, 478 RBI, 85 HR, 342 BB, .305/.357./.430
Hicks Career Stats: 2317 AB, 544 H, 297 RBI, 88 HR, 337 BB, .235/.332/.402
LeMahieu Career Stats as Leadoff: 1117 AB, 348 H, 155 RBI, 42 HR, 84 BB, .312/.359/.493
Hicks Career Stats as Leadoff: 378 AB, 78 H, 42 RBI, 19 HR, 50 BB, .206/.301/.402
What We Can Learn About LeMahieu and Hicks
(Note: Just as a preface, LeMahieu spent the first eight years of his career in Colorado which means the Coors Field effect. Though LeMahieu has proven he is a great hitter without the benefit of the altitude, it likely made the earlier parts of his career easier. Thus, his career stats may be slightly inflated.)
On first glance, it may seem like LeMahieu is the obvious choice at leadoff, right? Not so fast. First of all, DJ has better numbers regardless, so should he be moved around in the lineup, he would still be starting daily and producing. The key is how effective each of them are in that spot. When LeMahieu bats in lead off, his average hits, and RBIs remain around his career average. His home runs and slugging go way up too, but walks decrease slightly.
Meanwhile, Hicks’ average hits, RBIs and slugging stay similar, with his walks and homer averages rising and AVG. going down. Yet, Hicks already has 9 steals from the leadoff spot, while LeMahieu has just 19.
Obviously numbers do not show everything, but based on pure numbers, I would actually say that Hicks looks a bit more favorable. LeMahieu’s production will be there regardless, Hicks only has a few assets to his game, and they fall into the categories of someone who bats first.
So, while Hicks has the edge from a pure statistical standpoint, that is not all that is being considered.
The State of the 2021 Yankees Lineup
It is obvious that the Yankees do not start the typical MLB lineup. As a kid, I was always taught that your lineup is constructed sort of like this:
1: Fast player that can get on base a lot
2: Best contact
3: Best hitter
4: Power hitter
5: Second best power hitter
6: Filler Spot
7: Filler Spot
8: Worst hitter
9: Bad hitter that is fast and can lay down a bunt if necessary
Or something along those lines. However, if we look at the Yankees projected Opening Day lineup, it does not necessarily follow these guidelines
1: DJ LeMahieu
2: Aaron Judge
3: Aaron Hicks
5: Luke Voit
8: Gary Sanchez
9: Gio Urshela
Thus, while 2, 4, 5, and 8 (sorry Gary) fit the narrative, most of the others seem out of place. Furthermore, we can assume that the Yankees do not plan on moving Judge out of the 2 spot (which they should not) or Stanton out of the 4 (also, should not happen). Thus, Boone has to construct the lineup a bit differently.
With their go-big-or-go-home hitters at 2, 4 and 5, it would not make much sense to put LeMahieu in the heart of the order, as his production would be lost. Moreover, it does not make much sense for Hicks to be there either, as his approach would not work. Ideally, in this lineup, placing an all-around hitter in the heart of the order here would make sense, in order to prevent the pitcher from tunneling, but still keeping the momentum. How exactly would this lineup look?
Concluding Thoughts/My Perfect Yankees Lineup
In the end, to me, it makes most sense for the batting order to look like this:
1: DJ LeMahieu
2: Aaron Judge
3: Gleyber Torres
4: Giancarlo Stanton (actually Luke Voit, but I know Boone will not put him here like I want)
5: Luke Voit
6: Gary Sanchez
7: Aaron Hicks
8: Gio Urshela
9: Clint Frazier
There is so much harmony in this order. You have your big barreled Bronx Bombers from 2-6, with Torres in the middle to keep momentum rolling which he is great at. Then, after Gary’s AB, you can have Clint, Gio, and Hicks get on so when DJ’s plate appearance roles around, he can hit them in. I think that when Boone (as he often does) keeps changing the batting order, it prevents guys from building a consistent mindset, which can often throw off parts of their game. Look at Voit last year as proof, when he was given the 2 spot when Judge was out, he ATE.
I have very high hopes for this season, and it would be a shame if the Yanks missed out on ring 28 because of a lack of consistency. Therefore, slot DJ in at leadoff for the whole season and do not think twice.