After a frustrating start to 2011 that ended with a flourish for James Loney, manager Don Mattingly said the Dodgers were more concerned with the first baseman’s production than his power heading into 2012.
“James Loney’s going to be fine for us, but he’s going to have to drive in 90-100 runs for us to be a good ballclub,” Mattingly told Steve Mason and John Ireland on Tuesday on 710 ESPN.
Loney had 65 RBIs last season, a marked drop-off from his previous three -- he had 90 in ’08 and ’09, and 88 in ‘10. He closed out 2011 with 32 RBIs, from Aug. 1 on, so Mattingly is hoping he can continue that trend into 2012.
“With James it’s been a mystery, because if you watch James take BP, he hits balls probably as far as anybody,” Mattingly said. “You see a guy who’s got a 6-4 frame, the power’s there, it just doesn’t seem to show up in the games. … So I’m going to go back to that .300 guy that drives in 90 with 35 doubles and hits 15 homers.
“I’ll take that, for our club. I don’t want him to be something that he’s not, I’ve always felt like there was more there and maybe there is -- but I don’t think we can force it right now.”
After his slugging percentage dropped each year since he entered the majors, Loney raised it last season to .416 with 12 homers, up from .395 with 10 homers in 2010.
Mattingly said the addition of a big bat would be nice, but the Dodgers as constructed needed to get on base and score.
“You’re always trying to improve,” he said, adding, “I’m not quite sure how close we were with Prince (Fielder, whom the Dodgers made an offer to in the offseason) but we knew we wanted a power guy, and weren’t able to do it. We’re going to have to get production out of a lot of different areas.
“It would be nice to find power, but more than anything I need guys that give me good at bats and can drive in some runs.”