LeMahieu only makes noise on the field
Rockies second baseman riding a 12-game hitting streak
PHOENIX -- Quick, come up with something that stands out about Rockies second baseman DJ LeMahieu. Can't really do it.
LeMahieu's look doesn't stand out. Beyond the light purple college name and number -- "LSU 17" -- stitched on his glove, his fashion is standard-issue. Good luck finding a snazzy or controversial quote. He rarely posts on the @DJLeMahieu Twitter account. As for LeMahieu, he's just, you know, there.
Well, LeMahieu is there all right -- with uncanny regularity. Wherever he is needed, LeMahieu shows up and provides it. He filled the No. 2 spot in the lineup after excelling at No. 8.
Even LeMahieu's highlights have a way of not being visible. Teammate Michael Cuddyer is leading the National League in batting. But overlooked is the fact that LeMahieu is riding a career-best 12-game hitting streak going into Friday night's game against the D-backs at Chase Field. LeMahieu isn't into grabbing attention that isn't based on trying to win games.
"I probably wouldn't be the first pick for a reality show," LeMahieu said, laughing.
Actually, LeMahieu is the fellow who shows up on a reality show without a shtick and in the end is walking away with the prize briefcase.
LeMahieu joined the Rockies in a December 2011 trade with the Cubs. But the story in Colorado was the departure of once highly-regarded third baseman Ian Stewart. In Chicago, it was the dealing away of former NL Rookie of the Year Award candidate Tyler Colvin. But by the end of last season, LeMahieu had come up from Triple-A Colorado Springs to become the starter at second, and he finished with a .297 batting average.
This year, the Rockies wanted to see Josh Rutledge, who filled in at shortstop for the injured Troy Tulowitzki, play second base, and they sent LeMahieu to Triple-A as insurance, in case Tulowitzki was hurt again. But even before Tulowitzki's rib injury, LeMahieu had played his way into the Majors and into the lineup to stay when Rutledge was sent back to Colorado Springs.
LeMahieu has hit .388 during his current streak, with five of his 19 hits going for doubles. For the season, he is at .286 with a .320 on-base percentage. Defensively, according to Baseball-Reference, LeMahieu's "range factor per nine innings" (putouts plus assists, divided by innings played) of 5.17 is second only to the 5.27 of the Pirates' Neil Walker.
For a club that took major backward steps at second base when it let Mark Ellis leave after the 2011 season and traded Marco Scutaro to the Giants in '12, LeMahieu could provide exactly what he exudes -- stability.
"I don't think he's grown on me," Colorado manager Walt Weiss said. "I thought when I saw him at the beginning of the season he was a good player. He's been very steady for us. He's been productive on both sides of the ball. He's a solid player, a winning player."
Still, rather than getting the opportunities organizational products tend to receive, LeMahieu had to face the trials that come with joining a new organization. Even that is nothing new.
LeMahieu was born in Visalia, Calif., but his parents -- Tom, a computer consultant, and Joan, a facility manager -- often moved to pursue their careers. The family lived in California until he was 7, spent a year in Las Vegas, spent five years in Madison, Wis., and five key years in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. His dad was his coach on youth teams, but when the LeMahieus moved to Michigan and DJ attended Brother Rice High School in Bloomfield Hills, he began his ninth-grade year at the back of the line.
"Our team went to the state finals the year before, and there were a lot of returning guys -- shortstop was set, second base was set," LeMahieu said. "I came in and started at second. I was playing well.
"Actually, the guy at shortstop was a senior and his brother was our assistant coach. And the assistant coach was, 'Hey, you need to move my brother out of short and put DJ there.' But he continued to play, he just moved to second. For me, that was kind of a big moment. I was pretty intimidated at the start of that year, but I learned I could do it."
LeMahieu signed with LSU -- he says people think he's from Louisiana because of his French last name -- and helped the Tigers to the 2009 College World Series title. The Cubs took him in the second round that June, but he was dealt when new management took over and felt the inability to pull the ball lessened the value of the 6-foot-4, 205-pound LeMahieu.
For a player driven to compete, the move turned into gold for the Rockies.
"He wants to beat the other team every minute that he's on the field," said Glenallen Hill, who managed LeMahieu at Colorado Springs. "It's hard to see that sometimes, because he's quiet in nature. But lock in on him and watch him for nine innings, and you can see his intent."
LeMahieu's defensive positioning has grown steadily since his first callup last season. He went from a guy behind on pitches during his first callup last year to one who might be able to add pull power to his inside-out stroke. LeMahieu is not fast, yet he is 17-for-23 on steal attempts.
"I go into every game wanting to be perfect," LeMahieu said. "That doesn't usually happen, but that's my goal. And I'm playing to win.
"I'm not the type of player that's going to put up huge numbers, but I've got to be the kind of player that helps a team win, whether it's doing the little things or coming up big in a certain situation."