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Swinging For the Record Books: James Loney, the Road Warrior

Bleacher ReportSenior Analyst ISeptember 19, 2009

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 14:  James Loney #7 of the Los Angeles Dodgers reacts after being thrown out at third base in the eighth inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Dodger Stadium on September 14, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. The Dodgers defeated the Pirates 6-2.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Update: James Loney hit a home run in the bottom of the third inning off Brad Penny today—for his first home run at Dodger Stadium this season. Well timed, Mr. Loney...

The Los Angeles Dodgers have a very unique hitter on their hands.

James Loney is hitting at a ridiculously better clip on the road than at home in Dodger Stadium.

In fact, he is having a historic year as far as power numbers go while batting away from home. 

Take a special look at his homers and RBI on the road—all of his home runs have come away from the Southland, and he has nearly 20 more RBI in four fewer games on the road. 

 

G

BA

OBP

SLG

HR

RBI

BB

SO

Home

74

.245

.317

.303

0

35

29

33

Away

70

.311

.389

.493

12

51

35

26

So let's put a little historical perspective on this issue. Because, after all, that's what baseball is all about. 

In 1918, the Great Bambino hit 11 home runs, all on the road, and also led the majors overall.

But he doesn’t have the all-time record.

That belongs to Hall-of-Famer Goose Goslin, who set the record when he hit 17 dingers away from his home park in 1926 for the Washington Senators.

It's highly unlikely that Loney will be able to acheive Goslin's mark, considering the Dodgers have just eight games remaining on the road—two of which are at PETCO Park. 

Yet Loney does have a chance to move into second all-time. 

Ken Keltner smashed 13 homers on the road for the 1939 Cleveland Indians—and then also hit his first three in ’40 on the road.

Ed Yost had an amazing career of long balls away from the spacious grounds of Griffith Park in Washington, much like Goslin had done years earlier.

He had three seasons where all of his home runs came on the road: ’49, ’52, and ’55. The ’52 season saw him compile all 12 on the road, the most of all three times he did so. 

Jose Cruz was the last to hit at least 12 home runs with all coming on the road. He did so in ’84 with the Houston Astros.

Cruz also hit .344 on the road that season, but batted nearly 70 points lower with a .276 mark at home in the Astrodome.

This discrepancy in Loney’s splits is especially interesting because of how a fellow teammate, Andre Ethier, is having almost an opposite season.

Ethier is destroying the ball while batting at Chavez Ravine, with 21 of his 30 home runs this season coming at home.

 

G

BA

OBP

SLG

HR

RBI

Home

76

.306

.373

.626

21

63

Away

70

.259

.356

.427

9

35

 

And this is coming from two middle-of-the-order lefties for Joe Torre.

I guess this is one way the Dodgers have maintained consistency throughout the season—Loney takes home games off, and Ethier takes road games off.

Just kidding.

The reason Loney doesn’t hit for power at Dodger Stadium is because he is predominantly a line-drive gap hitter, and line drives don’t go usually leave the large outfield in L.A.

Loney really has to belt a ball since most of his extra-base hits travel to the gaps in right-center or left-center, and those are very spacious in Chavez Ravine.

Additionally, his line drives are tracked down much more easily because the outfielders are already playing somewhat deeper because of the larger dimensions at home.

This allows them to track down his liners because they are kept in front of the fielders, and when they go to the gap the fielders can take a more direct route to the ball.

We can see this best through Loney's BAbip (batting average on balls in play), which is .277 at home, but shoots up to .309 on the road. 

Ethier, on the other hand, sees more balls take off for him because he hits more straightaway fly balls to right field.

He exposes one of the few places the ball travels to in L.A. and has made a season of jacking the ball out.

Don’t get me wrong—Ethier can and has hit home runs to left center and deeper parts of the yard at home and even a couple of times on the road—but his bread and butter is elevating a down-and-in pitch high into the right field pavilion.

Altogether, I just thought these were some great stat-lines to pass along.

P.J. Ross is a Featured Columnist for the Los Angeles Dodgers

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