Mar 16

Loney starts his march to 2012 home run title

If you follow me on Twitter, you might have seen me pass along an item with the headline, James Loney: 2012 HR Champ?

You can click the link (which came via David Pinto at Baseball Musings) to see how Dave Fleming at Bill James Online explores the similarities between Loney and Ted Kluszewski, who hit 29 homers in 1952-53 combined, then 40 and 49 the next two seasons. But Fleming wasn’t actually saying that this at all likely to happen, and in fact, the suggestion seemed to be something out of the “#inmyheart” campaign launched by Stephen Colbert on Thursday — if it feels true, than it can be.

Nevertheless, it certainly was nice timing when Loney hit a three-run home run in his first at-bat today, leading the Dodgers to a 5-2 victory over Texas. Every little bit would help.

More from Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com:

… It is Loney’s offense, though, that will be the key to his season, and possibly to the Dodgers’ season as well. So far this spring, he is batting .357 (5-for-14), which he says is the result of finally honing in on one hitting style and sticking with it after years of constant tinkering with his stance and his mechanics.

It was something he began about midway through last season, keying a second-half revival in which he hit .320 with eight homers, 34 RBIs and a .380 on-base percentage after the break.

“I think I really just had an understanding of what I was doing as far as knowing what works for me and sticking to that and not swinging back and forth between different types of approaches,” Loney said. “The confidence factor is there. That is one thing no one can take away is your confidence.”

Loney, the Dodgers’ first-round draft pick in 2002 who is entering his seventh season in the majors, was playing for the first time in five days because he had been battling soreness in one of his calves, but that has subsided. He said this is the best he has ever felt at the plate in spring training.

“There have been times when I felt good,” he said. “But now, I actually have a concept of what I want to be doing … in the box. I know what to do. I know how to go about it.”

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly says he is relieved to see Loney sticking with a consistent approach at the plate.

“That is what I like,” he said. “I told him spring training is really a time when guys are searching for that feel. James sat out a couple of days and came back, and everything was exactly the same. I think that kind of made him feel good. I think he looks good right now. He is confident. I think it’s going to be an interesting year for him.” …

Ted Lilly and Kenley Jansen arguably had a body-switching moment, with Lilly allowing one hit in four shutout innings, only for Jansen to give up two home runs in the fifth.

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  • See current Dodgers (plus Aaron Miles) in old-timey style thanks to these Topps Heritage cards featured by Ernest Reyes at Blue Heaven.
  • Re-live the on-field greatness of Jackie Robinson via this post at The Platoon Advantage.
  • Enjoy Dee Gordon’s Thursday steal while the Royals napped, at the end of this clip below.