Once again James Loney tricked us. For most of 2011 James Loney was a terrible hitter following a trend he started in 2008. For most of his career since 2008 he has been less then adequate as an offensive 1st baseman but when Aug 5th rolled around he was literally the worst hitting first baseman in America. His triple stat line of .251/ .295 / .319 was so bad even bad hitting shortstops wanted no part of it.
He was clearly on his way out and about to join the Casey Kotchman career path of having to fight for a job until an unlikely event changed everything.
On August 12th Justin Sellers joined the team giving James a close look at what a bad hitting shortstop really looks like, so he decided to do something about his inability to hit a baseball hard.
James didn't just change a little, he went bat shit crazy.
From Aug 12th until the end of the year he put up the infamous triple stat line of .389 / .443 / .640 in 169 plate appearances. It was a beautiful run of line drive after line drive. He pulled balls, he pounded balls, he crushed balls. For the first time in a long long time he was a hitter.
Char Moriyama took a look at James Loney and felt he had made real strides. It is not the first time James Loney has had hot streaks. Going into the 2008 season James Loney had posted back to back OPS seasons of over .900 in 486 plate appearances. That is about a full season of work. Problem is, that was four years ago.
Taking all that into consideration, it’s not all that hard to think that the OPS production by NL first basemen in 2011 (and I shouldn’t have to note that I know OPS isn’t the best metric, but for a high-level look like this, it’s fine) is going to sink south of .800, a number that it barely topped last year with Pujols and Fielder.
Now, it seems, the bar might not be quite so high to be a decent first baseman in the National League, without even considering that Loney owns one of the better gloves in the circuit. If he repeats his 2011 exactly, his total package could make him average or just-below as far as NL first basemen go. If he’s anything like he was over the last two months of 2011, he’s one of the three best in the league. (And of course, if he’s anything like he was in April and May, he’s on the street by June.)
When Loney hit a grand slam against the Cubs in the 2008 NLDS, he became just the 3rd Dodger to hit a grand slam in post season play. The other two Dodger postseason grand slams came on back to back days in 1977 against the Phillies in the NLCS when Ron Cey and Dusty Baker accomplished the feat on October 4th and October 5th.
Loney will make $6.375 million in 2012, and is a free agent headed into 2013.
Previous Player Profiles
2011: RBI Without Big Flies
2010: The Road Warrior
|2011 Projections - Age 28 Season|
We like to kid around here at TBLA and say that James morphed into Jim on August 12th, 2011. Which one will show up in 2012. All projections feel they have enough history that they can agree with each other. They are expecting another poor performance from a 1st baseman. I want to believe one more time. I could bump up the numbers a little like .296 / .363 / .445. Yet I'm going big. .310 / .383 / .488 because I'd rather be wrong a lot then a little.
What is your guess for James Loney in 2011? Be sure to guess BA/OBP/SLG, HR's, and any other stats that you feel are relevant.