James Loney…You’re Up!

Situation:

Dodgers up 6-5 on the Yankees in the top of the 9th.  Men are on 1st and 3rd with 1 out.  Colin Curtis (Left handed batter) is at the plate.  The count is 3-2 and Jonathon Broxton is pitching for the Dodgers.  Colin Curtis hits the ball to First baseman James Loney.  Here is the link to watch the play.

Dodgers defense:

  • Loney is holding Chad Huffman on at 1st base.
  • Middle infielders are at double play depth
  • Third baseman should be closer than double play depth and shading in the 5-6 hole

Yankees offensive situation:

  • Curtis Granderson is a “plus” runner on 3rd base
  • Chad Huffman, (I assume) is an average runner on 1st base
  • Colin Curtis hits lefty and is at the plate.  He is an average runner.

What happens?

Curtis hits a 3-2 fastball on 2 hops to James Loney.  Loney tags the bag at first base, which retires Curtis making it 2 outs, and throws the ball home to Russell Martin.  Granderson beats the tag from Russell Martin and ties the game 6-6.

Did Loney make the correct decisions?

Loney’s educated guess

With runners on 1st and 3rd, Loney can expect Granderson to run home on a ground ball.  That is because the Yankees know that even if he gets thrown out, there will be 2 outs and men on 1st and 2nd with Jeter coming to the plate.  The Yankees know that the Dodgers want to turn a double play due to their defensive alignment.

Checklist:

  1. Know the speed of the runners on base. (Granderson and Huffman)
  2. Know the speed of the batter (Curtis)
  3. Know where to throw the ball if he fields the ball.

Where is Loney going to throw the ball on a grounder?

Now that Loney knows the speeds of the runners he will look at the manager for positioning.  Torre has him holding Huffman on at 1st.  This is important because Torre is sending Loney a clear message by holding the runner.

Torre is telling Loney that a ball at him or to his right, he should throw to 2nd base and try for a double play.  If Torre had told Loney to play in front of the bag or behind the runner, then Loney would have known that his priority was to throw the ball home.

What should Loney say to himself?

On a regular ground ball at me or to my right (towards 2nd) I will throw the ball to second.  If the ball is hit to my left (backhand), I will catch the ball and immediately look to throw the ball home.  If Granderson stays at 3rd I will tag the bag at 1st.

Loney has 1 more situation to consider: the steal

Loney must decide what he is going to do if Huffman tries to steal.  In the case of a steal, Loney should chose to throw the ball home if Granderson goes.  If he stays then Loney should get the out at 1st base.

  • If Huffman runs, I am playing for 1 out.  I will catch a grounder and look to throw the ball home.  If Granderson doesn’t go, I will step on 1st base for the out.

My opinion

In my opinion he didn’t.  Notice that in the breakdown of choices there wasn’t an option of stepping on 1st base and throwing the ball home?  There was a choice to catch the ground ball and look to see what Granderson is doing and then step on 1st.  But that choice was left out of our options because it requires a perfectly placed throw from Loney.

My choice would have been to throw the ball to 2nd base and turn a double play.  If Huffman happened to be going, I would have thrown the ball home making sure that the tying run didn’t score.

What would you have done?


29 Comments on “James Loney…You’re Up!”

  1. Jake says:

    My Dad taught us in Little League to know where you’re going with the ball before the play happens. Apparently Loney isn’t as smart as a Little Leaguer!

  2. Karen says:

    Since Loney is holding the runner at first, he definitely should throw to second and go for the double play.

  3. joe c. says:

    Joe #77

    If I don’t think I can make a double play, then the man on 3rd is far more important than getting the guy out at 1st. The guy on 3rd is the tying run and if you’ve already decided that the guy on 2nd is not an option and you eff up the play at the plate, then he (the guy on 2nd) becomes the go-ahead with a guy still coming up. And its not some scrub coming up; it’s a freaking Yankee! I don’t know the Yankee’s lineup off the top of my head, but I’m sure whoevers coming up can rake….

  4. joe c. says:

    I should really start reading the whole post before responding. It’s Derek Freaking Jeter coming up. That guy has a clutch hit or two in his life….

    • dingers says:

      Good post. Memories of Kevin Malone covered a similar topic, but cited it as a fault of the coaches. The players on the Dodgers have, year after year, made similar fielding gaffes, both rookies and veterans and everything in between, and yet no one’s made improvements.

  5. John says:

    Morgan, I don’t have anything to add about what Loney did, but this post reminds me of two of my favorite defensive plays: You throwing out Pujols at home in Game 4 of the 2005 NLCS and the double play turned by Adam Everett and Eric Bruntlett to end that game.

    Awesome!

  6. brian says:

    i was at the game the other night. as it happened in reality, lightning fast, it seemed to me that loney froze. he paniced a little. it was an insane, pressure filled moment for him and he made the wrong call. i thought going for the double play, second to first was gonna be the play but it never materialized for him. his feet told me he had a moment of indecision and a little panic….

    • Don W says:

      Brian,

      I watched the play on replay several times. I saw no hesitation in Loney’s play I think the only problem was execution. The throw gave the Martin no chance to make the play @ home.
      I think what you saw as freezing was Loney squaring himself to make the throw while at the same time making the play at first. It gave him the appearance of awkwardness but it was the only way he had could do it and have a chance at throwing out Granderson @ home.

    • Brian I agree with you, but Loney needs to understand how important each run is. This was a mental error.

      Morgan

  7. Matt says:

    With Granderson’s speed there is absolutely no option to go home. You have 1 out, you’re holding a runner at first pretty much saying we don’t want him in scoring position if the ball is on the infield. A step on the bag at 1st and trying to tag the runner out at 2nd is a timing play and if Granderson hits the plate before hand, the run counts. The only play you have there is to 2nd and get your tail back to 1st to receive the double play throw, then the ball game is over. The ball was definitely hit hard enough to turn 2, if it was a little weak dribbler then your option might have to be at home if there was time since he was coming in but in that case he definitely boogered that all up.

  8. Ed M says:

    I’m hesitant to criticize a guy good enough to play in the Bigs, but here it goes… He HAS to go to 2B with that. You’re up 1 with 1 out in 9th with a plus-speed guy at 3B. The highest percentage DP MUST be 3-6-3. His positioning puts him in good placement for an unobstructed throw to 2B (he could even improve it with a step towards 3B, which is easy for a LH thrower). Don’t mess with 3U-6(tag), Granderson would likely score before the tag at 2B and that is a tough throw to make because he’s right in line with the runner who is even closer to 2B by then. Loney “might” get Granderson by going straight home, but that leaves another chance for a tying run by a single.

  9. Ashitaka says:

    Just to be clear, you would want to throw to 2B BEFORE stepping on the 1B bag, because if you stepped on 1B first, that would take the force off and make the second-baseman’s play more difficult, correct? So, considering what the Yankees did and didn’t do in that instance, the best option would be to throw to 2B for the out and then relay back to 1B to try for the DP.

    • Ash- you are right, but the run at 3rd will score if there is a tag play in-between 1st and 2nd. Loney needs to either play the traditional double play at 2nd or go home for 1 out.

      Morgan

  10. Henry says:

    Perfectly played by Loney!
    Since I was 10, I’ve been hearing coaches tell first basemen that you never fail to get the out at first. How many times have you heard “when in doubt, get an out”? I now have an 11 year old lefty pitcher/first baseman and I coach his Select Team.
    That was perfectly played, only thing wrong with the whole thing was the throw (and it was a difficult one anyway). What the score is does have a little bit of bearing on the actions, but not much.
    If you watch the play over and over, Loney fields the ball, checks his runner (realizes he’s going) and has to make a split decision to 1)throw home or 2)touch 1st. Either way, he only gets one out – which one is the higher percentage play? One he has to make a good throw for, and the other he doesn’t have to take the ball out of his glove. I’d go with the sure out – the one at first. We just gave up a run, but now there are two outs and you only have one more out to make before you come in to bat.
    If it were later in the game – maybe a different decision, but this is the 6th inning we’re talking about.
    Bottom line – kudos to Loney for doing what he’s likely been drilled to do – get the sure out.

  11. Badfinger says:

    If the ball had been hit to his right, he has a chance to backhand, get the force at first, and come home all in one motion. Because he’s even with the bag from holding the runner on there’s no reason not to make that play because it takes him right to the bag. In the position Loney was in when he fielded the ball he was not in particularly good position to make any play fluidly. Maybe if he had made up his mind before setting himself to field it he would have been able to put a good throw to second or home.

  12. Dan Duran says:

    Not sure why no one has considered this option but seems clear to me since he has the whole play in front of him, why not run it in? If I’m fake James Loney I’ve got only one focus and that is to keep Granderson from scoring the tying run. 2-hopper hit to me at first base, I leave the low-percentage 3-6-3 and immediately square myself for a throw home. If Granderson runs, I throw a strike to Martin to ensure he doesn’t score. I trust my closer to secure the Win even if Huffman advances to 3rd on the play.

    If Granderson holds, my momentum was to home anyway and I simply ease left into the base path to tag out Curtis for the 2nd out. Sure, he stops to allow enough time for the Huff to advance, but I still keep what’s important to winning the game directly in front of me at all times. Now we have runners 2nd and 3rd with 2 outs and still have a one-run lead.

    Seems like this may have been a good opportunity for Torre to go out to the mound and talk about what LA restaurant the Yanks would be dining at that evening. This was a great game to watch and HUZZAH to the Yanks for pulling off that comeback. I don’t even like the Yanks, but that was just good baseball.


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