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James Loney: First Basemen Gone Mad

You generally expect your first basemen to give you above average production. However, over the past 30 days a majority of them went nuts. Seven posted a wOBA of +.400 and seven more were above .370. Three put up a wRC+ of over .190 and nine more were over .150. Joey Votto is first in wOBA and second in wRC+. If I gave you 100 guesses I don’t think you’d be able to name the player that’s second to Votto and first in wRC+. The mighty James Anthony Loney.

In 2009 James Loney finished the year ranked as the 33rd best first basemen. Last season he was 23rd. So far this season he’s 36th. His ownership sits at 34 percent. In a world dominated by the Pujolses, the Cabreras, the Vottos, and even now the Morses it’s hard for a player like Loney to get any burn. He doesn’t hit for power (64 career home runs). He doesn’t hit for a high average (like Casey Kotchman currently is). He doesn’t get on base. He doesn’t run. There’s not much Loney actually does well on a baseball diamond. And then the month of August happened.

To say it was the best month of his career would be a massive understatement. He had an OPS of 1.066, which is over 100 points higher than any month he’s had since becoming a full time player in 2008. Also, his five home runs in August were the highest single month total of his career. The triple slash line (from the past 30 days, so just more than all of August) of .397/.466/.679 is stunning. You don’t produce those numbers without some luck, and Loney’s .419 BABIP is a testament to that. Other, i.e. better, players like Joey Votto and Albert Pujols don’t need an outrageously high BABIP to look super human – they sit at .333 and .324 over the same time period. Needless to say, this isn’t likely to keep up for Loney.

Despite the pretty slash line most fantasy leagues use the standard 5×5 scoring system, which doesn’t appreciate a player’s on base abilities as much as it should. Loney has ranked as the seventh best first basemen, and 48th best overall, over the last 30 days using those metrics. I wouldn’t advise picking him up and trying to ride the hot streak. He simply isn’t a good enough hitter and the position is too deep.

If you’re in need of an emergency first basemen with some upside I’d suggest Kyle Blanks. He’s owned in just nine percent of leagues and has always shown pretty good power. He put up a .293 ISO in August to go along with seven home runs. He’s actually ranked as the 6th best first basemen over the last 30 days, one spot higher than Loney.