Although the Tampa Bay Rays didn’t have a whole lot of options at first base heading into free agency, it was hard not to laugh when the team signed James Loney to become their everyday first basemen.
But after two months of play, the Loney critics – including myself – have been silenced.
After spending time in Los Angeles and Boston, Loney seems to have found a comfortable home in Tampa Bay. The veteran first baseman is hitting over .320 on the year and has is worth 1.4 fWAR, which is only 0.6 fWAR from his career high of 2.0 fWAR that he had in 2011.
The good thing about Loney’s resurgence is that he’s really not getting all that lucky. When I say that he isn’t getting lucky, I am referring to the fact his batted ball data isn’t out of whack. For a lot of players, a hot start can be explained by just looking at things like BABIP, line drive rates and HR/FB rates.
While there is an increase in Loney’s BABIP, it isn’t one that I would consider a fluke, especially with the way he is hitting the ball as a whole.
This just goes to show how a change of scenery can help a player turn into a totally different individual. I can only assume that playing in Tampa isn’t as stressful as playing for the Los Angeles Dodgers, especially since a majority of Rays fans don’t hate Loney like Dodgers fans did.
Nevertheless, it appears the Rays are getting a good year out of Loney, which might help them make a solid playoff push in the tough American League East.