As we advance on to day 2 of MSTI.com’s 2007 In Review, let us review first base… because, oh, I don’t know, it’s the next position on the diamond. Remember that the letter grades are based on what we expected out of the player during the season, rather than comparing him to his actual peers.
(.283/.328/.371, 7 HR’s, 59 RBI’s)
2007 Recap: I really didn’t want to give Nomar an F… maybe a D, sure, but not an F… so I settled for an F fucking +. Not a F+, an F fucking +. With authority! But it was well earned, nonetheless. There was just NO redeeming qualities to Nomar’s 2007 season that could justify anything higher. I mean, the 2 year/$18 million contract he signed (probably also re-signed for P.R. purposes and due to panic after the Drew fiasco) seemed fair enough, given the condition of the market and his resurgence in 2006 (.306/.367/.505, 20 HR’s, 93 RBI’s, plus NL Comeback Player Of The Year honors). Also, despite the fact that his numbers dropped significantly in the second half that year (.229/.286/.408), it was still reasonable to expect another solid season from Nomar. Sure, maybe not AS good, but still good enough and with good defense at first base to go with it. I mean, he was STILL Nomar, even if not the one from the late 1990′s.
So then April came… just a slow start, he’ll be fine. Then May… oh, you silly goose, it’s still early, he’s just a slow starter. Then June… O.K., so maybe something isn’t right here. July… HOLY SHIT, GET THIS MOTHERFUCKER OFF THE FIELD, HE SUCKS!!
It is still such a shock how Nomar completely fell off the table and collapsed all Mets style. The balls that would once explode off of his bat for extra base hits were now very weak ground balls, as evidenced by the fact that 43% of the balls that he hit this year were ground balls, while 19% were line drives, both his lowest totals since at least 2002 (as far as the data goes back). Also, while you see the .283 average, it becomes completely worthless by his pathetically low .328 OBP, .371 SLG, 0.8 VORP, .243 EQA, and 1.1 WARP3. Since Nomar surprisingly didn’t have enough at-bats to qualify for the batting title, let’s set a minimum of 400 at-bats to go by, to see how he ranked on his own team (which counts out Kemp and Loney). Nomar’s ranking on the Dodgers: third to last in OPS+ and HR’s, second to last in SLG and dead last in OBP.
And if you rank like that in the 2007 Dodgers offense, then that, my friends, means: you’re pretty fucking bad.
What really exasperated these issues was, once again, his lack of plate discipline. He’s always been a notorious first ball hitter, and that’s fine, as long as you can hit the crap out of the ball in the process like, say, Vladimir Guerrero, or even how Nomar would in his prime. On the other hand, if you can’t do that anymore, yet still going up to the plate and swinging like you want the at-bat to end as fast as possible so you can go take a shit, it’s really going to… like, hurt you (his 3.34 pitches per plate appearance ranks him 209 out of 216 with players that have at least 400 AB’s). His inability to change his game and, oh, I don’t know, TAKE A PITCH!!, will only further accelerate his decline. Another thing to note is that even his defense seemed to tail off from the excellence he had at 1B last year. His .996 fielding percentage from 2006 went down slightly to .993 this year, his range factor dropped from 9.91 to 9.19 and his zone rating dropped .869 to .815 (not counting any 3B fielding stats, here). But none of these stats are the big one to show his ineptitude. No, no… I’ve saved the best for last.
Finally, in probably my favorite stat of the year, until he had a couple of home runs one weekend around August or so, and showed a brief pulse, he was outslugged for most of the year by Juan Fucking Pierre. Yes… JUAN PIERRE!! The Juan Pierre who hit NO home runs this year! The Juan Pierre who has 12 career HR’s!
However, we won’t focus on ALL the bad.
- Had twin baby girls.
- Saved money on his car insurance by switching to Geico.
JUAN FUCKING PIERRE!!
2008 Outlook: There’s a part of me who wants to think there’s a chance he could be traded this offseason, but, at this point, I don’t see him bringing back much value after having the worst year of his career, not to mention his fragile body and no trade clause. However, after watching Loneygate this past season, I don’t see the Dodgers handing third base to Andy LaRoche either, so I expect Nomar to go into Spring Training with third base his job to lose. And with him in a full-fledged decline, I could see him getting Wally Pipp’d again by LaRoche around mid-season, if LaRoche starts to put it together. Until then, expect the descent of a once truly great hitter continue…
(.335/.385/.544, 15 HR’s, 67 RBI’s)
2007 Recap: After enduring the utter hell that was watching Nomar Garciaparra at first base for the first two and a half months of the year, God decided to spare Dodgers fans and send us a guardian angel by the name of James Loney.
Unfortunately, those angel haters (no, not that kind), Ned Colletti and Grady Little, said: “No, you bastard, I don’t care if you were the best minor league hitter in 2006, or outhit everyone in Spring Training, we’re sticking with veterany Nomar, and we’ll make sure you NEVER see the big leagues!”
But, after attempts to suffocate him in Triple-A, and attempts to put him in the outfield after he was called up on June 10th – where he almost blew out his knee – The Power Of The Loney overcame it all and said: “I’m James Loney, bitch! That job’s mine!”
And, boy, was it. Loney came out gangbusters after being called up, going 22 for his first 50 and quickly established himself as arguably the best hitter on the team. Since he didn’t have enough at-bats to qualify for the batting title, let’s compare how he did to his fellow teammates who had at least 300 at-bats: ranked 1st in BA, OBP, SLG, OPS, EqA, WPA and OPS+. Compared to his peers, he ranked 6th amongst first baseman in EqA (5th in NL), had the highest BA out of all first baseman with at least 300 at-bats and finished 5th in VORP amongst all rookie position players. Sweet.
After Russell Martin started to fade just slightly in the second half, it was James Loney who took over and, sans a down month in August, mostly dominated. And all those rumors that he didn’t have power? Look at these numbers: .382/.429/.709, with 9 HR’s and 32 RBI’s in the month of September! That’s called total domination, my friends. The 32 RBI’s were good enough to lead all of baseball that month and his overall September was good enough to win him NL Rookie Of The Month honors. Simply put, this dude rocks. He managed to completely exceed all expectations. I mean, we all knew he was going to be good… but THIS good?! Absolutely amazing. His swing is so smooth and easy and has played stellar defense. He’s only 23 years old and already looks incredibly polished. He can hit, play great defense, he can run… err, oops, just the first two.
2008 Outlook: I don’t necessarily think that the James Loney that we saw this past September is the one we’ll see all year in 2008 (he did finish 2007 with a .352 BABIP), however, I don’t see James being all that far off, either. Simply put, he is such an awesome hitter. The ball just explodes off his bat and even his outs seem to be hit hard. I fully expect 2008 to be the first of many years that he will compete for batting titles along with Gold Gloves. He’s THAT good, folks, and with the power he has began to show, we are going to be watching a very special player that will continue to establish himself as one of the best first baseman for many years to come.