The James Loney Call Up

TheDodgers called up James Loney from Triple-A Las Vegas and designated Brady Clark
for assignment. Loney is a solid prospect but didn’t get the call based on
merit having posted a .279/.345/.382 performance in the Pacific Coast League
with one home run and 48/25 K:BB ratio in 56 games.

I’m unsure what’s going on in Los Angeles as
playing time has become a commodity with Matt Kemp having been recently
recalled to go with prospect Tony Abreu, Andy LaRoche having been demoted. Abreu
–- a second base prospect — is the starter at the hot corner at present over Wilson
Betemit, Kemp fights for time with Andre Ethier, possibly moving to centerfield
as the Dodgers have become disenchanted with Juan Pierre’s inability to get on
base or play the position  to the
standard of a centerfielder earning $44 million through a five-year stretch. Loney
could play the outfield in a pinch but is best suited to first base, where
veteran Nomar Garciaparra can be found struggling with offensive woes, one home
run and a .273 batting average in 231 at-bats.

Nomar and
Vlad Guerrero are the anti-Christs to the plate discipline disciples. In the past
10 years both have used their unique abilities — profound eye-hand coordination
in combination with superlative reflexes – to ignore the notion of taking
pitches; hitting for both average and power without the need for a strike to be
thrown. But has Nomar’s time come and gone? I’ve long suspected age-slide
issues would be quick and severe for these two, Nomar more than Vlad for a host of
reasons. There’s a case to be made Nomar, at age 33, has begun to deteriorate.

I’ll help
disclaim this incidental statistical analysis by pointing out I’m comparing two
months of data against three years, at times 10. Small sample size disclosed, here are the

mentioned Nomar annually displays a hit-first approach, and is normally on the
bottom of the pitchers per plate appearance stat, one that can be used to point
to an age-slide; as a player’s reaction slow or his eye becomes less than, he’ll
have a tendency to take more pitches and this increase, in combination to a contact
rate reduction, and possibly a swing in his usual GB/FB rate, is an indication his
best is behind him. Ignoring his small sample rookie call up, his 3.49 pitches
per plate appearance is higher than any of his prior years, well above his
career average of 3.19. He’s a notorious first-ball hitter, his average this
year is .405 on 0-0 counts –- career .336 –- yet he’s made contact just 16.02 percent of the time, again well
below the 22.75 percent he posted the three years subsequent. These in
combination with a groundball-skewed rate of 1.46, the highest of a career that
has averaged a highly neutral 1.01 suggest his career is in quick-slide.


the Dodgers are hoping to trade him the Loney call up seems to indicate
something is afoot.


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