Adam LaRoche

I was right about this guy, then I was wrong. LaRoche, throughout his minor league career, tended to have a pretty severe adjustment period. The Braves, rather unusually for them, had gotten into a pattern of promoting Adam at midseason. In 2001, he struggled at Myrtle Beach and started to repeat the circuit in 2002, but was promoted to AA after 69 games because he was hitting .336/.406/.512. He didn’t do very well in Greenville — he was okay — so they started him there in 2003. Once again, he pounded the circuit on a repeat, so they promoted him to AAA after 61 games. He did okay in Richmond and got the Braves’ job in 2004. I mentioned in last year’s comment that there was a chance he’d have another adjustment period.

So when he struggled, instead of looking back and saying, “He’ll do better in the second half, once he’s gotten his legs under him,” I wanted the Braves to get some other first baseman to take his job. Adam rebounded very nicely from a slow start and a shoulder injury. In the first half he was pretty awful, hitting .250/.292/.388; in the second half, he was terrific, hitting .302/.368/.576. The final averages of .278/.333/.488 will more than do for a rookie. You’d like to see more walks, but that should come in time. For what it’s worth, his percentages as a rookie are pretty close to Rico Brogna’s career highs. So unless this is the best we’re going to get, I think we can scratch that comparison.

One of the disappointments of LaRoche’s early work was that he seemed pretty lost defensively after being touted as a good glove. It’s hard to get a handle on first base defense, but it appeared to me that he got better as the year went on. At the least, Bobby didn’t feel the need to get him out of there for Franco at the end of games, and sometimes would bring LaRoche in for defense late… Painfully slow, didn’t attempt a stolen base, but did hit one triple. Probably doesn’t need to be platooned but will be anyway, and was pinch-hit for and used as a pinch-hitter a lot. Only had 26 PA against lefties, and hit just .250 but with six walks, a double, and a homer for a .250/.423/.450, which doesn’t mean much of anything considering how few appearances we’re talking about. Better on the road than at home, like Estrada and like other lefthanded-hitting Braves in the Turner Field era. Struck out 72 times, which is a lot for only 324 AB and something to worry about if you worry about such things.

Adam LaRoche Statistics –

15 thoughts on “Adam LaRoche”

  1. I’ll admit I was wondering when the Braves would re re sign Ken Caminiti to play first. You mention the defensive play. The thing that struck me was how helpless he was against inside thigh high fast balls. The high strike out total has to be because, at least every time I watched him, he would swing and miss at those.

    I think he is going to be a pretty good player. Not a super star but a championship caliber player. I think that they should avoid Kleskoing him and let him bat against some lefties. Franco can’t last forever.

  2. “Franco can’t last forever.”

    All the available evidence says you are wrong. That dude is going to be in MLB when he’s 100.

  3. I’d like to worry about strikeouts, if that’s okay. I’m sick of strikeouts. I can’t help it, I still think of a strikeout as a huge failure. Nobody moves. Nothing positive happens.
    Please don’t remind me of all the great plyers who had large strikeout totals–they were great players! Whatever measure you use for offwnsive ability, especially team offense, all are hurt by strikeouts.
    I hate’em.

  4. Oh for the days of Sewell and DiMaggio. Strikeouts were rather elusive for some players many years ago.

  5. These days, there is a somewhat significant positive correlation between batter strikeouts and batter isolated slugging percentage. Except in a few cases (Albert Pujols, Gary Sheffield), batters with lots of power also tend to strike out a lot. It’s okay.

    Is anyone else worried about the total lack of action on the Tim Hudson front? In my eyes, the amount of talent we gave up for him was only a worthwhile trade if he re-signs with us for another contract. The closer we get to the season, the less chance he’ll sign a deal; and if we wait till the season is over, we have little chance at all, I wager. Hope I’m wrong.

    On another front, there was an article in the AJC today about the Braves new spendthrift ways; I found the Terry McGuirk comments about the role of our farm system encouraging. Glad he gets it too.

  6. “Whatever measure you use for offwnsive ability, especially team offense, all are hurt by strikeouts.”

    I think that runs scored is a pretty good measure of offensive ability. That is the goal of an offense, after all. The team that scored the most runs last year (Boston) also happened to be third in number of strike outs. Montreal, who was 27 out of 30 teams in runs scored, was also 27 out of 30 in strike outs.

    Strike outs just aren’t that damning to an offense or a hitter. What matters more is the number of outs made in general (or, if you prefer to think of it in the positive, on-base percentage), and the quality of the hits you do get. In other words, OPS.

    I’d be pretty happy if Adam could put up a season OPS like his 2004 second half of .944. If he does that, I don’t really care if all of his outs come via the whiff.

  7. “”

    Interesting article. I”m not sure I agree with what he had to say, though.

    “However, catcher Johnny Estrada is a strong bet to regress, and they don’t have an adequate first baseman in the fold.”

    Adam Laroche isn’t a bad firstbaseman by any stretch. Chipper Jones was injured most of last season. I expect Estrada to hit somewhere around .285 with 12 hrs and 70 rbis. That’s not bad at all from a catcher, and not much of a regression.

    One thing — writers like to make a big deal out of someone like J.D. Drew disappearing from the lineup and how it is a huge deal. However, the runners he knocked in will just be on base to be knocked in by someone else. I see other numbers improving drastically (maybe a huge year from Chipper Jones or Andruw as a result)

    That said, I don’t think the Braves are going to win every NL East division from now until the end of time, but this year doesn’t appear to be one of those years where they take a significant step back. I say about 90-93 wins. Can anyone else in the NLeast surpass that number?

  8. Dayn Perry is a BP guy. I’ve always enjoyed his counter to the prevailing wisdom opinions. I guess he wanted to be the first of what will be many sports writers, prognosticators, experts and other opinion lemmings who will declare the end of the Braves incredible run. I remember John Donovan’s funny retraction toward the end of last season. At least Perry acknowledges what every Brave’s fan has known, that what the Brave’s have achieved is really hard to do and a terrific accomplishment that should have historical signifigance in the world of baseball.

    I have to say that although I’m a die hard always pulling for them win or lose Brave’s fan that he does have some valid points. Its going to take a lot of good fortune for everything to fall into place for our run to continue. When you disect last season its evident that everything did. How about 2 years in a row?

  9. Last year the Braves lost more going into the season than they did coming into this season. If anything they are a better team this coming year than they were last year, in my opinion. Losing Maddux, Lopez, Sheffield, Castilla … beats losing Ortiz, Wright, Drew, and Eli-eli-marrerO. Besides, when the Braves lost those players they added JD Drew and a bunch of no-name pitchers. What wasn’t taken into consideration in that article was the fact that they Braves added more in terms of pitching this past season than they did the year before. Offense? Who needs it. They sure didn’t last long with all the bats around in 2003. I’m not sure what the answer is but the teams they put on the field sure are jinxed in the post season, but clean up shop during the regular season.

  10. Agree with whoever pointed out LaRoche’s problem with inside pitches. I think the poster pointed out his problem with inside and up. Early in the season, I thought LaRoche’s biggest problem was with pitches right below his hands, but as the season wore on, he seemed to be able to pull the trigger on those pitches with a bit more regularity.

    I think LaRoche can be a really good “second tier” guy behind our bigger boppers. I’m guessing he becomes a solid .280-.300 guy with reliable, if not solid, plate discipline, and about 20 HRs.

    And strikeouts do matter. I don’t mind when Andruw strikes out with 2 outs and the bases empty (and he’s trying to hit one nine miles). But nothing ticks me off more when there’s a runner on third and less than two outs and Andruw decides to do his “weed whacker” thing and fishes for a 59-footer that bounces six inches outside.

    I always kind of chuckle at the stat types who hail the value of walks and discount the damage of strikeouts. It’s all plate discipline and the bottom line is what a player can do with pitches he can handle. And if a player shows himself to be someone who bites too easily, he’s never going to get a pitch to handle. In the long run, it certainly evens out a bit. It’s just too bad that a game is a collection of short runs where performance in discrete situations makes the difference.

  11. I think the biggst hole for LaRoche is the inside curveball. He’ll swing right over the top of it every time.

  12. LaRoche did seem to have some problems with down-and-in pitches, which I found particularly noticeable because it seems like most LHBs usually crush that pitch. When you think of sweet-swinging lefties like Justice, Strawberry, or Olerud (who reminds me of LaRoche in so many other ways) — all those guys would drill a low-inside pitch. LaRoche looks mechanical in comparison to the above, but if he can learn to drop the head of the bat and let his right arm do the work, he’ll be fine.

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