James Loney is off to a terrible start and was benched against a left-handed pitcher yesterday, so in an effort to snap the first baseman out of his slump manager Don Mattingly has decided to fine him $1 each time he flies out to left field.
According to the Dodgers manager Loney will “take a dollar back every time he hits a line drive to left.”
Loney is making $4.9 million this season, so obviously a $1 fine is purely symbolic, but the fact that a first baseman is being urged not to hit fly balls to the outfield shows why the Dodgers should probably be looking for another first baseman.
Even at his best Loney’s lack of power made him a mediocre hitter and because of that he starts dragging the lineup down when he’s not hitting at least .280. Last season Loney hit .267 with just 10 homers and a .723 OPS, which ranked 22nd among the 24 first basemen with at least 500 plate appearances. So far this year he’s hitting .202 with a .471 OPS.
Line drives are a good thing and encouraging Loney to avoid fly balls is a reasonable stance given his lack of power, but the Dodgers would be better off finding a first baseman whose fly balls actually travel over the fence more than 10-15 times a season and with slugging prospect Jerry Sands waiting in the wings that switch may be in the near future.
For a few days, it looked like Aaron Judge was finally hitting his stride in the postseason. He was still striking out at a regular clip, piling more and more strikeouts atop the 16 he racked up in the Division Series, but he was mashing, too. He engineered a three-run homer during Game 3 of the Championship Series, followed by another blast and game-tying double in Game 4. His one-out double helped pad a five-run lead in Game 5, while his 425-footer off of Brad Peacock barely made a dent during a 7-1 loss in Game 6. And then Lance McCullers‘ curveball found and fooled him, as it did five of the 14 batters it met in Game 7:
The strikeout was Judge’s first of the evening and 27th since the start of the playoffs. No other major league batter has racked up that many strikeouts in a single postseason, though Alfonso Soriano’s 26-strikeout record in 2003 comes the closest. Within that record, Judge also collected three golden sombreros (four strikeouts in a single game), narrowly avoiding the dreaded platinum sombrero (five strikeouts in a single game).
It’s an unfortunate footnote to a spectacular year for the rookie outfielder, who decimated the competition with 52 home runs and 8.2 fWAR during the regular season and was a pivotal part of the Yankees’ playoff run. Thankfully, the image of McCullers’ curveball darting just under Judge’s bat won’t be the image that sticks with us for years to come. Instead, it’ll look something like this: