TAMPA -- As the game of baseball has changed, so too have the majority of hitters.
With the Mets in 2015, Daniel Murphy became the poster child for a growing group who decided to try to lift the ball in an effort to hit more home runs, changing the approach that had gotten them to the big leagues in the first place. Murphy, baseball's king of contact, transformed right as front offices began to value power more than ever.
Now, as teams begin to realize their roster construction might skew a little too far towards all-or-nothing hitters, the man Murphy has replaced in Colorado might be happy he's stayed the same.
"Oh yeah, it's tempting," says DJ LeMahieu, one of several new additions to the Yankees infield. "Absolutely. And I work on it, it's something I work on. But at the same time, it's what makes me a good hitter. And for me to change and try to be someone I'm not, that makes me a worse player."
LeMahieu arrived in New York this offseason on a two-year, $24 million deal to little fanfare. He wasn't the mashing infielder fans were hoping Brian Cashman would sign. Instead, he was the polar opposite -- a career-contact hitter who had made a living getting on base for a team which leaned heavily on fly balls in their high-altitude stadium.
To the Yankees, that might be invaluable.
"I think there's real value in having the ability to put the ball in play, especially nowadays with matchups and pitchers we run out there who are designed to miss your bat," manager Aaron Boone says. "He does give us a little bit of a different, unique look."
No, LeMahieu isn't as good as Manny Machado. But at $12 million annually, to a team which employs low-contact boppers like Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge, LeMahieu may be needed to help put an end to a downward trend in run creation.
In 2016, the Yankees ranked fourth in the majors in contact rate at 79.8 percent. In 2017, their hitters made contact with 76.2 percent of pitches they swung at, good for 21st. Last season, they ranked 24th at 75.7 percent. The same tale can be told about their production with men on base. Their batting averaged dipped from .266, to .263, to .251.
LeMahieu will enter his first season with the Yankees a career .305 hitter with runners on, and a mainstay at the top of the contact hitting leaderboard who boasts a 87.2 percent mark. He will have the opportunity to provide diversity to a team that has relied heavily on home runs for the past decade.
"You need to have a balance there a little bit," Lemahieu says. "You can't just go all contact and then you're down three runs and that's a huge hill to climb. At the same time, with a lot of homers comes the strikeouts. So every once in a while you need those games for guys to get on base."
The Yankees may not have added one of the big bats available this winter, but they did add a different one to diversify their lineup. Though the headlines have gone to Troy Tulowitzki, who will open as the starter at shortstop after Didi Gregorius' injury, Lemahieu's approach at the plate could warrant some more playing time.
Perhaps there won't be as many solo home runs this year.