In many ways it is fitting that James Loney was assigned the number 28 by the Mets. Loney is a left-handed contact hitter that has been pressed into action at first base after the Mets lost Lucas Duda to a back injury. Throughout their careers, Loney and Daniel Murphy have been very similar hitters.
Coming into this season, Loney was a career .285/.338/.411 hitter who averaged 25 doubles and 10 homeruns. Murphy was a career .288/.331/.424 hitter who averaged 33 doubles and nine homeruns. The similarities do not end with those basic statistics. If you look at their stances and approach at the plate, you’ll see that Loney and Murphy are very similar hitters in more ways than production alone.
Here is a James Loney 2014 at-bat:
As you can see, Loney stands fairly upright in his stance with his hands held high. He stands a little off the plate with a somewhat open stance.
Now here is a Daniel Murphy at-bat: from 2013
Again, Murphy is fairly upright at the plate with his hands held high. He’s a little off the plate with a slightly open stance. Loney’s and Murphy’s stances are not identical, but they are very similar. Unsurprisingly, both had similar approaches at the plate. Both pulled inside pitches with some authority, but they would go the other way with outside pitches just hoping the ball would find a place to land.
Last year, Murphy linked up with Kevin Long, who has a reputation for unlocking a player’s hidden power. Here is a look at Murphy’s updated stance from the 2015 postseason:
Murphy’s stance is now closed, and he’s in more of a crouch at the plate. The results have been terrific as Murphy has been hitting for more power. This year he’s produced a slash line of .351/.394/.588 with 20 doubles and 14 home runs. The 14 home runs tie Murphy’s career high, and there is still more than half a season left to play.
Kevin Long has now made similar adjustments to Loney’s stance. Here is one of his at-bats from his short tenure with the Mets:
Now, the crouch in Loney’s stance is not as pronounced as Murphy’s. However, a crouch is still present, and Loney has also closed his stance. From the looks of it, it appears that Long has tweaked Loney’s batting stance and approach much in the same way he did with Daniel Murphy last season.
And so far, Loney appears to be hitting the ball with much more authority and power when he makes contact. A lot more authority than he’s had in nearly 10 years.
The bottom line is that Loney is now hitting .297/.345/.495 with eight doubles and four homers as a Met, and he hasn’t had a slugging percentage this high since 2007.
Long has seemingly unlocked the power in Loney’s swing just as he did with Murphy. And it now appears that Loney may not just be a stopgap for Lucas Duda, because if he keeps this up how can the Mets risk losing his bat from the lineup when Duda returns?