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A look at the surprising stars of April 2013.

While there were plenty of April surprises—good and bad—to fill a dozen pieces such as this one, here's a look at six hitters off to better-than-expected starts. 

John Buck, C, Mets
Buck played better than a perceived placeholder traded twice in one winter is supposed to play. Fueled by nine home runs—including a six-homer barrage over his first 40 plate appearances—Buck showed his raw strength in quantity and quality. The quantity may have been unexpected, but the geographical spread of the home runs jived with his past, as only three of the home runs qualified as true pull jobs; the other six landed beyond the left-center or right field walls. 


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The Cubs get Fujikawa, the Rangers re-sign Soto, the Brewers trade for Badenhop and the Rays sign James Loney.

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November 27, 2012 5:00 am

Out of Left Field: The Least Valuable Player

25

Matthew Kory

Matthew goes looking for an award that won't be controversial.

Value is one of those things people love to argue about. “Yes!” say some. “No!” say others. “This isn’t really a yes or no kind of thing,” say others. (Different others.) In the end we agree to disagree to each other’s faces and say mean things about each other’s mothers behind each other’s back.

While the substance of the mother insults is likely less than fact-based in nature (except for what I said about that guy’s mom, the truth of which is only exceeded by its grossness), the MVP disagreements manifest mostly through statistics. The sticking point lies in which stats you choose to look at, because that informs how people think about, and vote on, the Most Valuable Player award. Pick the right stats (everything on BP’s stat pages minus RBI) and you end up with the right choice. Pick the wrong stats and you end up with not Mike Trout. The venerable BBWAA picked the wrong stats and thus the wrong player, the end result being that Trout, the consensus most valuable player, was not the consensus Most Valuable Player.

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September 25, 2012 9:56 am

The Prospectus Hit List: Tuesday, September 25

4

Matthew Kory

The Phillies are the 14th team to reach 0 percent playoff odds; the Rangers are the fifth to reach 100 percent (again).

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Ben and Sam size up this winter's free-agent first basemen and estimate how much money James Loney will make, then talk about whether the Dodgers' pursuit of a playoff spot is leading to dangerous decisions.

Ben and Sam size up this winter's free-agent first basemen and estimate how much money James Loney will make, then talk about whether the Dodgers' pursuit of a playoff spot is leading to dangerous decisions.

Episode 48: "What We Would Pay James Loney/Are the Dodgers Trying Too Hard?"

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In one of the biggest trades in modern baseball history, the Dodgers would add an entire team payroll while the Red Sox would tear down a team that was supposed to be great.



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July 26, 2012 10:56 am

Overthinking It: Upgrading From Nothing

9

Ben Lindbergh

The easiest way for contending teams to get better is to start with where they've been worst. Here is where they've been worst.

As the trading deadline approaches, teams are open to any and all moves that might make them better. Some clubs have sought upgrades at positions where they’ve already received decent production, but the higher the bar that the trade target has to clear, the fewer the potential fixes, and the greater the price. The path of least resistance for a contender hoping to improve is often to patch a particularly weak position with an average player who can give them more than they’ve been getting, without costing too much in any other area.

The weakest performance by a collection of players at any position on a contending team this season has been at second base in Detroit, where seven players—notably Ramon Santiago, Ryan Raburn, and Danny Worth—have played at replacement level or below, combining for a total of -2.2 WARP. It’s no coincidence that the Tigers traded for a second baseman on Tuesday, filling what had been a gaping hole with Omar Infante, who should be at least average for them the rest of the way. We can see the same pattern on display in other acquisitions: the Dodgers traded for Hanley Ramirez because their shortstops—notably the injured Dee Gordon—had combined for -0.6 WARP.

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June 12, 2012 5:00 am

Value Picks: First, Third, and DH for 6/12/12

3

Michael Street

Michael sweeps four VPs off the list while bringing in two Rockies and two hot-hitting first base call-ups.

Being a fantasy owner requires balancing three P’s: production, playing time, and the patience to see if a hitter will improve the former after an increase in the latter. This week, I’m losing my patience with two hitters while sticking by another one who’s about to get more playing time. Owners without my patience can find other options in another set of P’s—the Playing Pepper section—but you can find some fantasy value in any of this week’s players, which is our goal here at Value Picks.

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March 13, 2012 3:00 am

Western Front: Better Than Doug Mientkiewicz

4

Geoff Young

James Loney hasn't exactly set Hollywood ablaze with his hitting prowess; can he still cash in on his mediocrity?

For reasons I don't entirely comprehend, James Loney has been on my mind of late. His skill set is unusual for a first baseman, and although some players have parlayed similar skills into a successful big-league career, such players are few and far between.

In last week's light-hearted preview of the NL West, I quipped that Loney should star in a show called “Being Doug Mientkiewicz.” Marginally amusing one-liners aside, the truth is that Loney is a better hitter than Mientkiewicz, though this is hardly cause for celebration among Dodgers fans. Set the bar low enough and everything looks good.

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December 2, 2011 9:00 am

The Great Debaters: Ike Davis vs. James Loney

8

Derek Carty and Jason Collette

Which first baseman makes the better fantasy option for the 2012 season?

In Favor of James Loney by Jason Collette
Ike Davis versus James Loney. This should be an easy decision on catchphrases alone. “I Like Ike” versus... umm... “I’m Looney for Loney”? One plays in a park being reconfigured for hitters after being a hindrance to power hitters the past few years while the other plays in a division with impossible pitching and a home ballpark that has never been terribly kind to power hitters. Career-wise, Davis owns a .271/.357/.460 slash line in his first 750 plate appearances while Loney is at .288/.346/.432 over 3018 plate appearances. Davis hit 19 home runs in the old Citi Field configuration in his full season of play in 2010, while Loney has never hit more than 15 home runs in any season for the Dodgers. The decision is easy: give me Loney.

This is not a knock on Davis, however, as there is little not to like about him. He turns 25 just before the season starts and has showed above-average power in his major league career thus far, which he pairs with a great aptitude for taking walks. My qualm with him is he has struck out in 23 percent of his plate appearances and swings and misses above the league average. Given that he is never going to help in stolen bases, the contact issues limit his batting average upside as it did in 2010 when he hit .264 over the course of a full season. Last season’s .302 average was a bonus, but it also came in just 129 plate appearances along with a BABIP that's 23 points above where it was in a full 2010 season.


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April 20, 2011 9:00 am

Selling Loney

14

Mike Petriello

Why the Dodgers have no need for one James Loney, and why other teams shouldn't be scared off by his history.

The Dodgers, as a semi-great man once said, are who we thought they were. Just as most pundits expected, their generally solid starting pitching has struggled to overcome an atrocious offense, with the heroics of Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier put in stark contrast to the abysmal foursome of Juan Uribe, James Loney, Rod Barajas, and Aaron Miles at the bottom of the lineup. The Dodgers entered Tuesday night’s tilt averaging a mere 3.29 runs per game, just slightly above Atlanta and Minnesota for the worst mark in baseball. That is a fact which is in large part why they’re sporting a run differential mark which is worst in the NL and second-worst in MLB, ahead of only Seattle, and is also why you can see them down at 14th in Jay Jaffe’s most recent NL Hit List.

The dichotomy between Kemp and Ethier and the rest of the crew can’t be overstated; as Geoff Young noted yesterday, the duo were earlier this week hitting .424/.493/.602, compared to the unacceptable .202/.254/.282 from their cohorts. It’s actually gotten to the point that Cardinal manager Tony La Russa received a good deal of second-guessing for refusing to break the time-honored chestnut of not putting the winning run on base after Ethier doubled to start the ninth inning down 1-0 on Sunday. Rather than walk Kemp to face Uribe, Loney, and Barajas, La Russa chose to have embattled closer Ryan Franklin pitch to the red-hot Dodger center fielder, and the result was a joyous trip around the bases ending in a dog pile of Dodgers at the plate for Kemp.

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September 10, 2010 8:00 am

Seidnotes: Loney Loves Ribeyes

5

Eric Seidman

The Dodgers' first baseman doesn't hit a lot of home runs but he drives in a quite a few runs.

James Loney is somewhat of an odd player. Despite hitting .321/.372/.543 in 486 plate appearances across the 2006 and 2007 seasons for the Dodgers, his power output has resembled that of Placido Polanco lately. While a short supply of power isn’t always a death blow to success at first base, it usually means that the top notchiest of defensive ability is required to make up the difference. Loney realistically doesn’t fit that bill either. He might be smooth with the glove, and he might not have a glaring weakness such as Ryan Howard’s inability to throw a baseball, but it isn’t as if we’re talking about the first-base equivalent of Franklin Gutierrez or Jack Wilson here. Despite the shortcomings in his game, there is one area in which Loney has excelled, even if it is a stat kept only in my strange head: the ratio of RBI to home runs.

In 2008, Loney hit just 13 home runs but knocked in 90 runners. Last season, he did the exact same thing by launching 13 dingers and plating 90 runners. This season, he appears to be on pace for very similar numbers, as he hasnine home runs and 80 RBI. Recording that many RBI with so few home runs is one of those jarring parts on a batting line. It doesn’t really tell us anything revolutionary about a player, but it looks off, just like when an on-base percentage exceeds its slugging counterpart. A disproportionate number of RBI relative to home runs might suggest that we are dealing with more of a slap hitter who happens to come up with runners on very frequently, and if he were to be moved down in the order the ratio might decline. After all, Loney continues to bat in the middle of the order even if Martin Prado can out-homer him.

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