We were gathered around Don Mattingly after the Dodgers’ victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday, when a radio reporter put a microphone in front of the manager’s face and commented on how James Loney had been hitting better of late and wondered whether the first baseman had changed anything.
The room broke out in laughter, or maybe it was just me.
“I hope not,” Mattingly said.
Loney is the king of tinker, which has been an ongoing problem during his six-year career.
Those still waiting for him to suddenly develop power at age 28 look to be in for another disappointment, but that radio guy was correct about one thing: Loney has been hitting better lately.
He was off to another miserable start, hitting .198 with .274 on-base and .302 slugging percentages through his first 28 games.
Yet, in his last 12 games, he has batted .381 with a .447 on-base percentage, and at least an improving .500 slugging percentage. Plus he continues to play a high level of defense at first base.
It is, as Mike Petriello points out at MSTI, a relatively small sample size during the course of a baseball season filled with small sample sizes. Still, Loney is not making himself a problem in the lineup, at least against right-handers, and is one of the reasons the Dodgers are 5-2 since Matt Kemp went down.
Loney is not in the lineup Monday against Arizona left-hander Patrick Corbin. Loney is batting .154 against left-handers.
Mattingly does not want to platoon Loney, but he is going to lean more that way if he doesn’t prove he can hit left-handers. And history (.247, .303, .359) says he can’t.
At least he is productive against right-handers and healthy, and given that there are no more healthy infielders on the 40-man roster to call up, he gets points for that.
Last season he finished the season so well (.375, .438, .644 in his last 47 games), it was once again disappointing he couldn’t carry it over to the start of 2012. For now, however, he is hitting reasonably well. As long as he doesn’t start to tinker.