FRIDAY FACEOFF: CARLOS PENA VS. JAMES LONEY
MLB reports: In another first on MLB reports, I will be running a series every Friday titled “Friday Faceoff.” The series will matchup two MLB players at the same position and consist of a five point comparison between them. The player with the most points at the end of the faceoff is victorious. Especially for fantasy baseball players, the faceoff will give you an edge and strategy as to how to fill your fantasy roster and set your lineups.
In the premier edition of the Friday Faceoff, I present James Loney of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Carlos Pena of the Chicago Cubs. Two middle-of-the-road first basemen with the potential to hit the upper tier. Do you have either player on your team? Do you want to have either one in your lineup? Lets begin the Friday Faceoff and find out!
CARLOS PENA VS. JAMES LONEY: THE FRIDAY FACEOFF BEGINS
1) Home runs/Power: This is an automatic win for Pena. James Loney in his last three major league seasons has averaged a paltry twelve home runs. In his last two years, Loney has shown a SLG under .400. Acceptable numbers for a catcher or second baseman maybe, but certainly not from a first baseman. While he had forty-one doubles last year, Loney simply did not have enough extra base hits as required from a power position. Carlos Pena, for all his faults has been consistently solid in his department. In 2007 at forty-six home runs, Pena had almost the same amount of home runs in one year as Loney has hit in his whole career. Last year, Pena hit twenty-eight long balls in a “down year”. With a career SLG of .490, considering the slow start to his career, Pena clearly has power in abundance. Last year interestingly, Pena had a SLG of .407. But considering he hit under .200, we should cut him some slack. Another note on James Loney, in 2009 he managed only one home run at home all year. Neither player has set the world on fire to start the year, Loney with one home run and Pena with zero. But based on history, the winner is: Carlos Pena.
2) Batting Average: A statistic long in dispute, but for what its worth Loney has the clear advantage here. With a .288 lifetime average, Loney is far ahead of Pena’s .241 career mark. Carlos has a career high of 138 hits in 2007 and ony 95 hits in an entire season last year. Loney since 2008 has averaged over 160 hits per season. While Pena has the power, Loney gets the more consistent hits. Not the standard for a first baseman, but if average counts in your fantasy league, then congrats if you have the winner in round two: James Loney.
3) On-Base: With Loney’s career OBP mark of .348 and Pena at .351, the difference between the player is negligible. As Loney has the hits as shown above, Pena has the walks. Pena since 2007 has walked 103 times, 96, 87 and again 87 times. Loney had 70 walks in 2009 but otherwise walks approximately 50 times per year. Pick your choice, if you need your first baseman to get on-base consistently, as this round ends in a tie.
4) Durability: A difficult factor to predict given the strains of playing 162 baseball games, Loney and Pena are examples of a contrast in measuring health. Carlos Pena will be turning 33 this year and is starting to show his age. While being fairly durable in his career, Pena has averaged approximately 140 games and 480 at bats in the last four years. Loney over the last three years has missed 6 games in total. Loney has also averaged close to 590 at bats over that time. Entering his prime this year at 27, if you want to hedge your bets on who will be healthiest this year, your winner is: James Loney.
5) Speed: Stolen bases is something that you rarely look for from your first baseman in fantasy baseball but will take as a bonus. If your league counts steals, you will be very interested to find who wins this round. Pena has twenty-three steals over his ten major league seasons, with five steals actually coming last year. With several seasons of zero and one steal per year, Pena is not someone you would exactly call a speed demon. Loney on the other hand had ten stolen bases last year, with seven steals each year for the previous two seasons. At a younger age and playing on an aggressive running team with Davey Lopes on board, expect Loney’s thefts to rise in a run-and-gun offense. In the final round, another win for: James Loney.
THE VERDICT: Going into this article, I fully expect to be handing a trophy to Carlos Pena in the first ever faceoff. But sometimes number crunching can differ from expectations and in this case, the results were not as I had predicted. Carlos Pena, for all of his home runs and walks does not offer most fantasy players the same consistency on the same number of levels as James Loney. Despite lower power totals, Loney has the durability, batting average and speed advantage. At this point in their careers, Pena and Loney appear to be on different tracks. Pena is starting to be on the downside of his career while Loney should be entering his prime. After two weeks into the season, both players have shown little so far. But as the weather heats up, both should similarly get their games going. But based on the Friday Faceoff, with a 3-1 record and 1 tie, James Loney is the fantasy first baseman of choice on this night. While both players are truly average choices at first with many better options available, if the faceoff is an indication, you can do worse than having James Loney on your squad.
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