2012 Los Angeles Dodgers Season Review: First Base

Adrian Gonzalez

When the Dodgers acquired Adrian Gonzalez from the Boston Red Sox, I saw a plethora of Dodger fans begin to assert wild and crazy things. Not only were the Dodgers guaranteed of making the playoffs, but they were a lock to make the World Series on the back of a hero who was absolutely the right acquisition because of the dubious logic of him fitting in with the community and what not.

With all of the variables in baseball, I found these claims to be ridiculous. Putting aside the unforeseen injuries to Matt Kemp, Chad Billingsley, and Kenley Jansen, Gonzalez’s acquisition did not portend to an immediate success because of the small sample size of the remaining season and because it wasn’t really the same A-Gon of pre-2012.

No, this A-Gon was potentially still dealing with ramifications from shoulder and back injuries, had seen his power sapped, and had seemingly forgotten how to draw a walk (10.6% career, 10.3% in 2011, 6.1% in 2012). While an obvious upgrade over James Loney‘s corpse, success was no sure thing, as he was in the midst of his worst professional season since becoming a full-time starter. What would end up disappointing people in 2012 was two-fold: far too high expectations and a stretch in which Gonzalez was atrocious at the plate, to the tune of a .235/.292/.346/.638 line over a 20-game span.

Following an MVP-caliber 2011 in which he hit .338/.410/.548/.958 with a .407 wOBA, .210 ISO, 154 wRC+, and 75 extra-base hits, A-Gon’s slash line fell to .299/.344/.463/.807 with a .346 wOBA, .164 ISO, 115 wRC+, and 66 extra-base hits. Again, those numbers still trump anything his predecessor in Blue could dream of, and his numbers after the trade still stand above Loney’s, but will they be enough in the long-run for such a high-priced player? It’s yet to be seen.

On the positive side, Gonzalez was still a very productive player, no doubt, saving ~15.5 runs with his excellent glove and posting a WAR of ~3.4. Also, Adrian did finish strong, mashing to the tune of a .330/.365/.495/.860 line. As he won’t even turn 31 until May, I expect Gonzalez to rebound and be better with the lumber, ending up closer to a ~4 WAR player, at least for a season or two.

James Loney

Prior to his trade to Red Sox Nation, Loney was having yet another putrid season, hitting .254/.302/.344/.646 with a .278 wOBA and .090 ISO. Even his most ardent fans were less boisterous about how the #RBIMachine would bust out at any moment, and though the financial ramifications of the Boston deal worry me, and the deal as a whole doesn’t thrill me, I was very pleased to see the Sox take him away.

Loney leaves Los Angeles as a failed prospect who could never hit enough to warrant his job at a premium offensive position. The only real role in baseball that he has left is as a late-inning defensive replacement, as he saved ~3.3 runs in 2012 prior to his move east.

Juan Rivera

Rivera was the right-handed half of the #Fail platoon Don Mattingly trotted out at first prior to Gonzalez’s arrival. He started 39 games and appeared in 54 at first, hitting just .226/.268/.404/.672 while being a liability on the basepaths (-1.4 BsR) and with a first baseman’s glove (-17.6 UZR/150 in over 300 innings). He managed to land in that rarefied air of posting a negative fWAR, clocking in at -0.8 for the year.

How he could possibly receive anything other than a minor-league invitation to Spring Training in 2013 from any team is beyond me, but if anyone can make that theoretical minor-league deal into a guaranteed major-league one, it would be Uncle Ned.

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Greg Zakwin is the founder of the site Plaschke Thy Sweater Is Argyle. Follow him on Twitter @ArgyledPlaschke.

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