Thursday, February 24, 2011

James Loney, New And Improved With More Bat Speed

James Loney has been industrious since the end of last season, working with Dodgers hitting coach Jeff Pentland throughout the off-season to re-tool his swing. Will this suddenly give him the home run power for which we all are yearning to see? Well, after last year's second-half offensive swoon, I'd even settle for some consistent production--but at least Tony Jackson's article gives me hope:

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- There are two schools of thought when it comes to Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman James Loney: one school that asks why doesn't he hit more home runs, and another school that asks why can't the Dodgers just let him be who he is.

Loney is hoping this is the year when he can bring the two camps together.

"The thing is, I'm still with this team, so they obviously think there is more I can do, even though what I have done has been pretty good through the years," Loney said. "I want to get better. The key to making your game better is driving the ball. My job isn't necessarily to hit more homers. … People who know baseball say hitting home runs is really all about getting bat speed and catching the ball in just the right spot."

And it is precisely that -- not getting the ball to leave the yard, but getting Loney's bat into the relatively small hitting zone more quickly -- that Loney and Dodgers hitting coach Jeff Pentland have been working on not only since the start of spring training, but basically since the end of last season. Loney flew to Phoenix from his home in Houston twice this winter for extra work with Pentland at the team's Camelback Ranch facility.

"In order to hit the ball in that certain area, it's really difficult," Pentland said. "James probably isn't as consistent as he needs to be at getting his bat to that spot. What he needs to do is put the bat head in a better position so we can add some sharpness to the ball. I never tell guys to swing for the fence. I want guys to hit the ball hard consistently. If they do that, there are going to be times where they catch it just right and it's going to go out of the ballpark."

Loney has always had strong hand-eye coordination, and he admits that has allowed him to adjust mid-swing and make contact at times even when his mechanics haven't been completely sound. But after working and talking so much with Pentland, he is feeling a comfort level he has never felt before.

"It's a totally new feeling," Loney said. "I think I might have had it a few times [in the past] without knowing it. But this is more of a new feeling. … It's just [a result of] trying to do things the right way and trying to take that perfect practice approach so that eventually, you make that muscle memory take over."

We're pulling for you, King James!


Fred's Brim said...

I would settle for "consistently mediocre" with James. The great-for-three-weeks,-.242-the-rest-of-the-time James is not acceptable