Terry Collins Decision of the Game – James Loney Good Defender
It was just a little over 24 hours ago when James Loney had made two really poor plays in the field. The first was his inability to stretch for a low pickoff throw from Bartolo Colon (imagine that a low pickoff throw by the base) that would send the speedy runner Mallex Smith to second base. Fortunately, that wouldn’t cause any harm as Colon was quick on a come backer, and he would catch Smith straying too far off second base.
The second Loney play would help lead to a Mets loss. Leading off the bottom of the eight, Ender Inciarte hit a groundball that went right through Loney’s glove and legs. It was a pivotal play that saw the fast Inciarte reach and eventually score the tying run. The Braves would also score a run in the top of the ninth, and Inciarte would be prominently featured again as he stole what could’ve been a walk-off three run homer from Yoenis Cespedes in the bottom of the ninth.
After the game, Collins acted surprised at the Loney error calling him a good defensive first baseman. He is definitively not, and he hasn’t been in some time.
This year, Loney has a -2.8 UZR and a 0 DRS. If Loney had enough innings to qualify, his UZR would rank 13th and his DRS would rank 10th in the majors.
Over the past three seasons, Loney has averaged a -2.2 UZR and a -1 DRS. Those numbers ranks him as 14th in hte majors in DRS and UZR. For what it’s worth Lucas Duda, who is still not fully back from his back injury, ranks ahead of Loney in both catergories (11th UZR and 6th DRS)
Looking over those numbers, Loney isn’t a terrible first baseman. He is just a slightly below average one. Even if you were not one that subscribes to the advanced defensive metrics, it is hard to overlook his unwillingness/inability to stretch for balls throw to first base as well as the errors he has made in the field. Despite only playing 94 games at first base, Loney has eight errors, which is coincidentally gives him the lowest fielding percentage of any first baseman in the National League this season with a minimum of 700 innings played over there.
All of this is prelude to what happened last night.
With the Phillies starting the left-handed Adam Morgan, Collins elected to go with Eric Campbell at first base over Loney. With the way Loney has hit in the second half and the way Loney has hit lefties his entire career, you’d be hard pressed to disagree with Collins over the decision to sit Loney.
In the sixth inning, the Phillies would bring on the right-handed pitcher Luis Garcia to pitch, and Collins would pinch hit Loney for Campbell. Again, you’d be hard pressed to argue with Collins on this one as he’s removing Campbell from the game; a Campbell that was 0-2 with a strikeout on the night. Understandably, Loney remained in the game. Loney would again cost the Mets with his defense.
In the top of the eighth, and the Mets having a 4-3 lead, Odubel Herrera hit a sharp grounder up the middle that T.J. Rivera made an incredible diving stop to save a run with the speedy Cesar Hernandez on second base. Rivera popped up, and threw to first base. It was a close play, but Herrera was safe. Look at Loney’s stretch on the play:
On what was a bang-bang play, Loney fully stretched. If he did, there would have been two outs instead of one. That might’ve completely changed Addison Reed‘s pitching sequence to Maikel Franco, who would hit a go-ahead three run homer.
Now, to be fair, Collins’ decision to leave Loney in the game was reasonable, as no one is quite sure right now whether Duda can physically play first base after having played there Sunday. Overall, what is wrong with Collins is his mindset that Loney is a good defender. He’s not, and he hasn’t been in a few year. And if not for the heroics of Jose Reyes and Asdrubal Cabrera, Loney’s inability to stretch would have had a profound impact on what would have been another horrible Mets loss.