James Loney: Why the Dodgers Need to Make a Change at First Base

Bleacher ReportContributor IIIApril 26, 2011

DENVER, CO - APRIL 06:  First baseman James Loney #7 of the Los Angeles Dodgers plays defense against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on April 6, 2011 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

The Dodgers currently sit at 12-12 and are four games behind the Rockies for first place in the NL West.

The inconsistent performance on offense during the first few weeks of this season is one of the reasons the team has gotten off to a mediocre start. They are ranked 17th in SLG, 12th in OBP, eighth in batting average, and 19th in home runs.

The lack of production from first baseman, James Loney, has been one of the club's major problems over the last few seasons. He impressed during his first season with the Dodgers in 2007 when he hit 15 home runs with a .331/.381/.538 line in only 338 plate appearances. 

Loney's  wRC+, a metric which weighs the runs created by a player to the league average, is the lowest among starting first basemen since the 2008 season. In addition, he has the lowest wOBA (weighted on base average) and ISO (isolated power) among first basemen since 2008.

Loney, who has primarily hit in the sixth spot of the order, is off to a terrible start to the 2011 season posting a .170/.190/.213 line with one home run. Loney's walk rate has dropped to 3.6 percent, and his ground ball rate has increased to 52.5 percent from 42.3 percent last season.

If Loney continues to hit the ball on the ground at this rate, he would hit only seven to eight home runs. 

Loney isn't as bad as his 2011 numbers indicate, but his previous numbers indicate that he is the worst offensive first baseman in baseball in terms of runs created.  

The Dodgers don't have any immediate help in the minor leagues at the position, but Ned Colleti and Don Mattingly need to discuss making a switch at the position.

Jay Gibbons, who is currently on a rehab assignment, can play the position, but he isn't a long-term answer either.

The Dodgers should try to acquire a cheap first baseman for the rest of the season, and then upgrade the position next offseason. 

The Dodgers can't afford to have middle infielder numbers at first base any longer, and it should be the team's first priority if the club can make any moves before deadline.