James Loney Does Not Like to Travel

After watching James Loney’s brutal “0-5 with a major throwing error” performance yesterday, I realized that I haven’t exactly been overwhelmed by his performance this season. He hasn’t been bad, per se, but he hasn’t struck me as being all that we’d hoped for either. After most Dodger fans spent the first few months of last year watching Nomar struggle to hit and begging for Loney to be recalled, he came up and did exactly what we all hoped he would: .331/.381/.538, for a 131 OPS+ and 15 homers in just 96 games. Everyone drooled at what he could do once finally given a full season as the unquestioned starter at first base. But so far? .281/.333/.450. Again, not horrible, but the numbers prove my suspicions – with a 101 OPS+, he is almost exactly league average. We’ve even barely mentioned him on the blog so far, as he hasn’t been bad enough to harp on, yet not productive enough to praise. I’m no scout, but he doesn’t look any different than last year to me. So what’s going on?

Well, check this out:

Loney, 2008 at Home:
.375/.447/.556 1.003 OPS 165 OPS+
Loney, 2008 on Road:
.205/.228/.364 .592 OPS 64 OPS+
(stats from Baseball-Reference)

Is that not one of the biggest home/road splits you’ve ever seen? He’s literally 101% better of a hitter at Dodger Stadium than he is everywhere else. To put it another way, at Chavez Ravine, he’s Manny Ramirez (1.001 career OPS); and everywhere else he’s, well, hell, even Neifi Perez put up a .672 career OPS, and I’m not mentally prepared to look up hitters 80 points worse than Neifi Perez.

But here’s the odd part – he’s always been a better hitter on the road. Even factoring in this season’s wild splits, in his MLB career he’s actually put up a 112 OPS+ on the road, and only an 88 OPS+ at home. Those numbers were certainly even more divergent before this season. 

I’m not really saying there’s anything that can be done about it, nor would I want to do anything except for let Loney play every day – we certainly pined over him for long enough, and we’ve seen him be successful. I would just love to know what causes home/road splits like what he’s doing so far this season.

In other news that’s only tangentially related to first base… why was Mark Sweeney batting 5th yesterday? He went 0-4 and is now batting a robust .125 on the season. That’s 4 hits in 32 at-bats. When you’ve got Delwyn Young wasting away on the bench, Mark Sweeney should not be your designated hitter. And when you’ve got guys simply killing the ball at triple-A (Andy LaRoche, Terry Tiffee, and John Lindsey all have OPS’s over 1.000, and Lindsey hit three homers last night), Mark Sweeney shouldn’t even really be on your team. He can’t hit, he’s 38, he offers less defensive flexibility than both LaRoche and Tiffee, and he can’t hit. Time to move on, no?

- Mike Scioscia’s tragic illness msti-face.jpg