Tampa Bay Rays Season Preview: James Loney
James Loney Looks To Build Off 2013 Success
After having a rebound year with the Rays in 2013 James Loney tested the free agent waters and after sifting through several offers he returned to the Rays agreeing to a 3-year/$21M contract.
Loney was a gold glove finalist in 2013 finishing the season with a .995 fielding percentage (7 errors) and a zone rating (UZR/150) of 7.2.
After a disappointing 2012 season where he posted career lows in batting average (.249), on-base percentage (.293), and slugging percentage (.336) he came back to post more career norms of .299/.348/.430 with 13 home runs and 75 RBI.
A lot of his production in 2013 can be traced to his performance versus left handed pitching. From 2010 to 2012 he hit just .219 (86 for 393) versus left handed pitching. In 2013 he improved against southpaws hitting .299 (46 for 154) and a .729 OPS.
It should be noted that as the season wound down he began to struggle once again against left handers hitting just .232 (16 for 69) and it may be fair to assume that some regression against left handed pitching will be seen in 2014.
Against right handed pitching he was close to his career norms posting a slash line of .299/.352/.446 with 10 of his 13 home runs. He led the Rays with 164 hits, 118 singles, batting average with runners in scoring position (.310) and 14 3-hit games.
According to Fangraphs.com he led all MLB with line drive percentage at 29.8% (ML average was 21.2%).
There are several mathematical projection models and several have including Pecota, ZiPs, Oliver, & Steamer are provided in the table below. Fangraphs sabermetric library goes into more detail on the different systems (LINK).
Pecota was developed by Nat Silver and is released via Baseball Prospectus and is an acronym for Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm.
Oliver was created by Brian Cartwright and is available at The Hardball Times. It’s a comparatively simple projection system – using weighted averages of the past three seasons of data, and adjusting for aging and regression
ZiPS was created by Dan Szymborski and is available at the Baseball Think Factory. The ZiPS projections uses weighted averages of four years of data (three if a player is very old or very young).
Steamer projections were created by Jared Cross, Dash Davidson, and Peter Rosenbloom and are available at Steamerprojections.com.
Last 3 Years:
Many of the projection models use the data from the past three seasons in their forecast.
Many players are better in one role or another. When a player has a significant gap against either right handed pitchers or left handed pitchers he usually will find himself in a platoon role. There are cases where a players defense will result in less of a platoon role and that is where James Loney fits. Joe Maddon values defense at first base and will find his name in the lineup most of the time regardless of the handedness of the pitcher.
While some regression may be seen in his performance against southpaws he should continue to be a solid bat against right handed pitching. He will continue to anchor the defense over at first base and provide a solid frame for Longoria, Escobar, and Zobrist to throw to.
Early in the 2013 season the Loney family moved into their new home in Poway California (outside San Diego). On July 19th his wife Nadia gave birth to their first child James Jordan who came in at 8 pounds 2 ounces.
He wouldn’t wait over a year to hit his next home run off a lefthander. Just five days later he connected off the Cleveland Indians Scott Barnes.
In the 9th inning of the Rays final home game of the season the Rays final home game of the season, he stepped to the plate as a pinch hitter for Sean Rodriguez and belted a game winning home run off the Orioles Tommy Hunter. It was the Rays only pinch hit home run of the 2013 season.