DJ LeMahieu Struggles and Finds Resurgence in 2023 Season
After a disappointing 2021 season, DJ LeMahieu appeared to regain his All-Star form in the first half of the 2022 season. However, his performance took a nosedive in the second half, with a toe fracture being the primary culprit. As the veteran infielder entered his age-34 season, hopes for a rebound were not high.
In 2023, LeMahieu started the season on a positive note, recording 10 extra-base hits in March and April. However, his strikeout rate, nearly double his career average, raised concerns about his performance. Throughout the first half of the season, he managed just 12 more extra-base hits, resulting in a post-April first-half wRC+ of 61. Despite a second-half improvement with a wRC+ of 128, LeMahieu’s overall performance slipped into mediocrity.
Struggles and Frustration
LeMahieu’s difficulties continued into the summer, and he openly expressed his frustration. He found himself tinkering with his swing more than ever before in his professional career. Despite Aaron Boone’s insistence that LeMahieu’s foot was healthy after a lengthy recovery from his previous fracture, the veteran infielder struggled to find his rhythm.
However, something clicked for LeMahieu in mid-July, around game 80. Whether it was due to adjustments made by Boone or the influence of Sean Casey, or simply a reintroduction of his trademark zen mindset, LeMahieu’s performance began to improve.
A Shift in Swing Decisions
What contributed to LeMahieu’s offensive improvement was a significant shift in his swing decisions. He started swinging at better pitches to hit by reducing the number of swings overall. This change allowed him to focus on better pitches and improve his overall performance.
During his struggles, pitchers challenged LeMahieu more often, leading to increased frustration. As his swing decisions worsened, pitchers stopped challenging him in the strike zone and tried to get him to chase. However, LeMahieu countered by laying off more pitches, leading to his resurgence.
A Question of Sustainability
While LeMahieu’s second-half improvement was promising, the sustainability of his performance remains uncertain. Pitchers started challenging him again in September, resulting in a higher swing rate and a decrease in wRC+. However, his swing decisions remained above average, mitigating the drop in overall performance.
Despite his limitations, including declining defense, LeMahieu’s experience at multiple positions makes him a valuable asset for his versatility. If he can reverse his strikeout rate trend as he did in the second half of the season, his offensive floor remains higher than that of players like Giancarlo Stanton.
In conclusion, DJ LeMahieu faced struggles and frustration in the 2023 season but found a resurgence in his performance. With a shift in swing decisions and a zen mindset, he managed to improve his offensive output. While sustainability is a concern, his versatility and experience make him a valuable asset for the team.