James Loney is another buy low bounce back purchase for the Rays. When they signed him to a 1-year contract with a $2 million base including a possible $1 million in incentives they knew they get an above average first baseman into the fold. What they had hoped was that he could also demonstrate the hitting ability that he displayed from 2007-2011 with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
In that period of time he posted a slash line (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage) of .288/.346/.427 but in 2012 he started slowly with the Dodgers and was eventually shipped over to the Boston Red Sox as part of the teams mega-deal in late August. Between the Dodgers and Red Sox he put up career worsts in batting average (.249), on-base percentage (.293), and slugging percentage (.336).
He got off to a slow start hitting a disappointing .167(5 for 30) through the Rays first 13 games but has done a complete turn around over the teams last 13 games hitting .541 (20 for 40). Overall through the month of April he has a slash line of .373/.432/.537 – a start which caught the eye of Baseball Prospectus writer R.J. Anderson who included Loney in his Painting The Black article as one of the six who clicked in April .
Right now he is making solid contact and is hitting them where they ain’t as evidenced by his .400 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) but there is more to his success than just good fortune. He is playing for a manager who continues to place him in a position to be the most productive.
In his career he has excelled against right handed pitching posting a slash line of .295/.352/.442 but has struggled against left handed pitching hitting .252/.306/.360. A quick glance at these splits explains why only 8 of his 74 plate appearances in 2013 have come against left handed pitchers. James Loney is one of the better Rays stories to start the 2013 season and although we may not see him continue to hit at a torrid pace thanks to being protected against left handed pitching we may see better production than his career norms.
James Loney’s Career Numbers: