Loney's postseason resume impresses
Slugger racks up big numbers in short time amount of time
LOS ANGELES -- Following a 2-1 win over the Phillies in Friday's Game 2 of the National League Championship Series, James Loney had 59 postseason plate appearances, not an insignificant sample size.
His postseason batting average is .358, with an on-base percentage of .424 and a slugging percentage of .528 for an OPS of .952 which is over 150 points higher than his career regular-season totals.Nothing insignificant about that, either. "Well, you know the players nickname for him -- 'Big Game,'" said manager Joe Torre.
"Reggie, Jeter, Loney -- I don't know when he was born, but it should have been in October," teammate Juan Pierre shouted as he left the dugout for batting practice before Game 2.Some players just seem to rise to the occasion, although the flip side of that explanation is that some players don't handle the pressure well. Loney has the rare ability of appearing as if there's nothing special about the occasion. He plays in October as if it's May or August, as if there's nothing different. "It is a regular game," explains Loney. "It just happens in October. I'm just here trying to get to the end, the World Series, and that's when I'll celebrate." Torre often compares Loney to his high-achieving former center fielder with the Yankees, Bernie Williams, because of their carefree, sometimes spacey approach to baseball and life. Loney's teammates say he sometimes doesn't know what day it is or what time it is, but he seems to know when it's time to play. Torre said the personality trait that makes Williams and Loney different also makes them well-suited to handle the pressure that often claims others on the game's biggest stage in October. "Calmness," said Torre. "They don't know what's supposed to make them nervous. The most upset I've seen James was when he was fighting for his swing. He has a calmness and that's good to have. It helps them perform when the game speed ups for others, because they don't let it speed up for them. Even though it's more than a game with all that goes on around it, you still play it like it's just a game. "Last year was a perfect example. With everything building up around him, he's sort of 'what's going on?'" Loney set the tone for last year's sweep of the Cubs in the NL Division Series with a grand slam off Ryan Dempster in a Game 1 win at Wrigley Field and drove in six runs in the series. Against the Phillies in the NL Championship Series, he hit .438. In a one-game appearance during the 2006 playoffs against the Mets, Loney went 3-for-4 with three RBIs. He went 3-for-12 against the Cardinals in last week's NL Division Series and was 3-for-7 through the first two games of the NLCS. "He's unusual by some standards, but he knows what he's doing," said Pierre. "He's the kind of guy, you just roll with it. He'll make you laugh when he doesn't mean to. He'll have a goofy approach. It's not really goofy, it just seems goofy. He might have three different swings on one given night, but he has a plan and it works for him. I think that's why if he makes an out in one of these games, he doesn't get scared all of a sudden or let it get into his head."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.