Hi, it’s your resident James Loney truther here. Missed me? I got nominated by the staff to write the James Loney season review because, well, of course I did. Who else could write it?
After Lucas Duda (Good) went down in May (Bad), the future of the first base job looked bleak for the Mets. For god’s sake, Eric Campbell was starting there for a while. ERIC CAMPBELL!!! Make the pain stop! That was, of course, until the Mets scoured the Triple-A ranks and found themselves the man, the myth, the legend—James Loney—playing in the PCL for the El Paso Chihuahuas.
Okay, so that was sort of sarcastic and for that I apologize. In a time of extreme need, Loney stepped in and immediately gave the Mets a boost with a pretty strong .294/.345/.471 line in June. Considering Asdrubal Cabrera and Neil Walker were in the midst of prolonged slumps, that was shockingly one of the best lines on the team that month, and even after tailing off a little bit in July, his .280/.341/.427 line that month was perfectly useful if not spectacular.
It was the next month where we saw Loney crater. That August featured a .213/.222/.225 line with one measly extra base hit, a double on August 1st, and one walk, a ludicrous intentional walk on August 30th. The combo of one walk and one extra base hit was dead even with Bartolo Colon for the month and actually an extra base hit behind Noah Syndergaard, who popped a home run in addition to his double and walk. Kind of embarrassing.
Loney rebounded with a strong month of September (.288/.329/.500) and even hit an important go-ahead home run against the Phillies in the Mets’ Wild Card-clinching victory on October 1. That was cool! He got the champion belt that day. Interestingly enough, Loney ran a .212 ISO in September. Is this small sample size noise or did Kevin Long get through to him? Whether or not there’s anything to this over the long term, I’ll be interested to see if Loney can pull in a big league contract with any team this winter as a free agent.
On a personal level, let me say that I don’t dislike James Loney the person. Far from it! I’m sure he’s a great guy, even if he’s not close to the greatest first baseman or sax player the Mets have ever had (seriously, Miguel Batista also played the saxophone). It’s James Loney the baseball player, and more importantly, the fan perception of James Loney the baseball player that I have always taken issue with.
Unless he totally trolls me with Kevin Long’s help—fully possible, given my prognosticating history—Loney is a replacement level first baseman who’ll likely be available to a team in need of an injury replacement. That’s what he was in 2016 for the Mets and that’s probably what he’ll be in 2017 for some other team. And that’s fine. Mostly because that’s not Eric Campbell.