Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Now more than ever, Nats need LaRoche

US Presswire photo
Adam LaRoche rounds the bases after hitting his ninth-inning homer last night.
PITTSBURGH -- It got lost in the shuffle amid Henry Rodriguez's sliders in the dirt and Rod Barajas' walk-off homer into the bleachers, but the most significant development of last night's loss to the Pirates from the Nationals' perspective might well have been Adam LaRoche's performance.

Back in the lineup after missing four games with a sore right oblique muscle, LaRoche looked like he never skipped a beat. He went 2-for-3 with a single, a walk and a towering, two-run homer in the top of the ninth off Joel Hanrahan that would have served as the game-winner if not for Rodriguez's blown save in the bottom of the inning.

LaRoche was understandably down in the dumps because of the way the game ended, but he was encouraged by his individual performance and the fact he was able to pick up right where he left off before getting hurt.

"It felt nice that I could get up there and take full swings with my side the way it's been feeling," he said.

LaRoche did have his right side packed in ice post-game, and he did have to take some swings off a tee in-game to keep himself loose, but the oblique muscle certainly didn't prevent him from doing anything on the field.

And that's a good thing for the Nationals, because right now they desperately need the veteran first baseman to keep himself in the lineup. With Jayson Werth out for the next three months with a broken wrist, with Michael Morse still sidelined at least another month with his lat strain and with Danny Espinosa struggling mightily at the plate, LaRoche has been one of the few constants in manager Davey Johnson's lineup.

LaRoche's .323 batting average ranks 10th in the NL. His .406 on-base percentage ranks eighth. His .954 OPS ranks ninth. And, of course, his play at first base has been superb.

With Bryce Harper asserting himself and Ryan Zimmerman now healthy again after a two-week stint on the disabled list with a sore shoulder, LaRoche gives the Nationals a formidable trio of big boppers. Which they certainly need, given the other holes in their lineup.

Espinosa continues to look lost at the plate; after striking out three times last night, he now has 37 for the season (second in the majors only to Adam Dunn).

"I'm concerned about him," Johnson said after the game. "But I have a lot of confidence in him. He'll be in there tomorrow."

The Nationals also continue to get zero production out of their left fielders, especially now that Harper has shifted to right field. Given yet another opportunity to assert himself last night, Roger Bernadina went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. He also got twisted around trying to catch a first-inning drive to the warning track.

With left-hander Erik Bedard pitching for the Pirates tonight, look for Xavier Nady to get the nod in left field. But don't look for general manager Mike Rizzo to scour the rest of the league in search of another body who could take over that position, not with Morse's return anticipated.

"Like we said before, with injuries come opportunities," Rizzo said before yesterday's game. "We're going to give a handful of guys an opportunity to perform out there and see if they can help themselves in their career path and help the ballclub win some games. We feel comfortable with the guys we have in-house. We're going to give them opportunities to take the job, and for somebody to take the job and run with it."

All the more reason to appreciate just how valuable LaRoche has been. The veteran got plenty of negative attention last season when he hit just .172 and had to be shut down in May with a torn labrum in his left shoulder. But he's living up to the billing right now, and the Nationals are grateful to have him.

"People underestimate him because of what they saw last year when he tried to play hurt," Zimmerman said. "It's not easy to play through things like that. He gave it a shot. Unfortunately he couldn't do it, and so that's what a lot of people think of him as a player. Adam's a good hitter. He's a very underrated player."

39 comments:

REW said...

Free Tyler Moore!!!

sjm308 said...

I think if Moore is in their plans, he needs to go back to Syr. and learn to play left field. Its obvious that Davey is not going to trust someone out there who has played just a handful of games at that position. Of course if/when Morse returns then you your left field issues are over (hopefully). Still hurting over last nights loss, its amazing how a baseball season plays out and I guess they have very short memories.

John said...

In hindsight, Rizzo should've brought back Jonny Gomes. Dude is only making $1 million this season with the A's.

peric said...

In hindsight, Rizzo should've brought back Jonny Gomes. Dude is only making $1 million this season with the A's.

Chris Marerro hit better ... when he went down Davey went for Mark DeRosa. They just need to get Tyler Moore acclimated to left-field. The highest priority is still to develop the prospects. NOT to sign washed up AAAA players.

I agree with sjm308 Moore needs to go back to Syracuse to get reps with the bat every day and to get better in left field. Not sure why he is keeping him on his bench ... except there really isn't anyone else who has that kind of right handed bat on the bench. If La Roche were to get injured doubtless Moore would start over Tracy.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

"I'm concerned about him," Johnson said after the game. "But I have a lot of confidence in him. He'll be in there tomorrow."

There's our answer. They are going to give Espi time to come out of this at the expense of the team. The kid has options. Have him work out his issues in Syracuse.

Espi has been on a slide since last June. Yes he had a few weeks were he got hot but he has been just plain bad in the Spring and almost all of this season.

JamesFan said...

If the Nady/Bernie platoon doesn't work in left after a few days, I would like to see DJ put Moore out there and accept that he may bungle a few in left before he gets comfortable. He won't be any worse defensively than Willingham or Holliday, and he might help the offense.

DL in VA said...

If I recall correctly, last year, Pujols broke his wrist (arm?) and was projected to be out 4-6 weeks. He was back in 2 weeks, using some new special method. How do we get one of these special magic arm-healing machines in Werth's hands so we can send Harper back to LF?

John said...

Peric, I totally agree with you, especially about Moore needing to go back to AAA rather than wasting his time up here.

I know injuries have messed things up, but DeRosa, Tracy & Nady were regarded as upgrades over Gomes, Hairston, Cora, Bixler, etc., and they are all retreads. Only Lombardozzi has really stepped up and he was an in-house addition from the farm.

Nats1924 said...

just to kick some tires, would the Nats be interested in bringing back Alfonso Soriano?

obviously, we wouldnt give the cubs much. maybe we'd just eat some salary???

Steady Eddie said...

peric said -- I agree with sjm308 Moore needs to go back to Syracuse to get reps with the bat every day and to get better in left field. Not sure why he is keeping him on his bench

I agree with the "start TMoore here or send him down" thought. Presumably he was here originally as a cup of coffee incentive to experience a little of what he was developing towards, and was expected to go back down when RZim came off the DL. Then Werth's injury threw a wrench into that works, both in "who's on the 25 man?" and, more importantly, in "who's in left?".

Still Moore needs to be starting somewhere -- that's fundamental to his development. And even recognizing Moore's bat off the bench potential, as you did, doesn't really work, and isn't very useful for him or the team, unless he gets more MLB ABs. Unless Rizzo is still gathering thoughts and looking at post-Werth options, I wonder if it suggests that the look at Nady and Bernadina is going to be shorter rather than longer, and he's keeping Moore here as a potential LF starter in case neither, or at least the Nady side of the platoon doesn't work out. It wouldn't make sense to keep Moore up if they were going to give that platoon another month, but if it's only another week or two, you don't want to yo-yo Moore down and then up again.

That's the only explanation I can see for why, now that Zim is back, Moore is not in Syracuse and not starting.

peric said...

keeping Moore here as a potential LF starter in case neither, or at least the Nady side of the platoon doesn't work out.

He is the big right-handed bat on the bench until Nady comes around. If Nady doesn't? I think they are waiting to see what Nady does ... meanwhile, hopefully, Moore is working in the outfield with Bo Porter every day.

Tracy is a little more flexible than Moore and not a prospect so I should think Moore starts at first base if LaRoche ends up on the DL for an extended period of time.

Moore is on the 40-man while other options in AAA are not.

NatsLady said...

@mr baseball: I read your post twice and still could not understand what you are proposing and why you are calling me out.

If JZ is getting discouraged then he should have a look at King Felix. He had the same problem last year, and I had hoped he toughened up. The wins will come.

You want Jonny Gomes back---because he did so well for us last year?? Good luck to Hairston and Nix for that matter, but you can't go giving 2 year contracts to aging vets unless that is the one last piece you need (and it ain't).

Clip struggled early, but last night was bad luck. Also he is working on a cutter.

Espi isn't going anywhere unless his hitting starts to affect his defense. Lombo is a rookie and having the same sort of "beginner's luck" Espi had last year. Pitchers will figure him out. What does "not seeing the ball" mean, anyway. Someone asked why is Dunn seeing the ball so much better this season, a commentator said, "Just look at him, he lost weight, he's in shape...."

Henry is a bundle of talent and it's not just his 100 mph. He has a great work ethic and a devastating curve.

The Nats were going to be a frustrating team this year. They are not the Rangers. They are a team on the "bubble."

NatsLady said...

Soriano--NO. The worst defender in MLB. Hasn't hit a homerun yet.

peric said...

There's our answer. They are going to give Espi time to come out of this at the expense of the team. The kid has options. Have him work out his issues in Syracuse.

Davey still wants to develop the prospects ... himself. From his perspective that is Job 1 after building a winning season. He doesn't like using surrogates in the minors with top prospects. Espinosa is a top prospect like it or not. Espy brings a lot to the table it'll be hard to give up on him.

peric said...

Soriano--NO. The worst defender in MLB. Hasn't hit a homerun yet.

Rather see Corey Brown added to the 40-man over Soriano, Willingham, and Span the fly swatter. Destin Hood isn't progressing as expected instead its been all Jeff Kobernus and Chris Rahl again ... makes you wonder where those bats stand in the pecking order.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

Peric - I told you this before. Espi no longer qualifies as a "prospect". He is not a rookie or pre-rookie. He is a sophomore and no longer is technically a prospect. Lombo and Moore still qualify as prospects.

Not sure what you mean by surrogates.

To make matters worse, putting Espi in the 5 hole yesterday was a head scratcher and while I understand that Davey didn't want to put LaRoche with another pure lefty behind him, it bit Davey hard yesterday.

If Davey insists on playing Espi, at least get Lombo into LF.

Fear and Ignorance said...

Espinosa is costing the team baseball games. He has been the worst player in the league for about 100 games now, and needs to be sent down. He has already struck out more times in one month than Wade Boggs did in 8 different full seasons...and he has 2 RBI's. This isn't rocket science. This team needs offense and it is time that Rizzo addresses this or we are going to be fighting the Mets for 4th place.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/dc-sports-bog/post/hey-look-empty-seats-at-citizens-bank-park/2012/05/09/gIQAYEBCDU_blog.html

Enjoy the photos in the Sports Bog. Sure, the seats were pre-sold but they didn't show up. Hope that trend continues although plausible excuses were Flyers playoffs, Sixers playoffs, Tuesday night, chilly weather, yadda yadda yadda

Nats1924 said...

why not put Lombo (2B) at leadoff and bat Desi #2, then Move BHarp to #5 in the lineup.

I agree, at this point Espi needs to be sent down. His bat is killing us

He was what, 0-4 w 3k's yesterday?

Ann Ominous said...

"Ghost Of Steve M. said...
"I'm concerned about him," Johnson said after the game. "But I have a lot of confidence in him. He'll be in there tomorrow."

There's our answer. They are going to give Espi time to come out of this at the expense of the team. The kid has options. Have him work out his issues in Syracuse."

(a) Espi's problem is he can't hit major league pitching right now. There's no major league pitching in Syracuse, so sending him there won't solve that problem.

(b) If Lombo becomes the regular 2B, then someone needs to replace Lombo as utlity IF/OF. That player either needs to be Espi, or if Espi is sent down then that player needs to be called up to replace Espi on the roster. Is there anyone on the 40-man roster who would be better as utility IF/OF than Espi? No.

Conclusion: Espi will not be sent down, but you may see Lombo getting more starts at 2B unless/until Espi gets turned around.

Ann Ominous said...

"Enjoy the photos in the Sports Bog. Sure, the seats were pre-sold but they didn't show up. Hope that trend continues although plausible excuses were Flyers playoffs, Sixers playoffs, Tuesday night, chilly weather, yadda yadda yadda"

If there are so many fans in Philly that want to see them play but they can't because CBP is sold out and they have to come down here for the chance, then why aren't those fans buying these empty seats on StubHub if the original ticketholders don't want them?

#4 said...

Sorry if others have chimed in with this. I haven't had time to read through everyone's comments.

Wilson Ramos' inability to block HRod's curve ball is becoming a problem. That as much as anything cost the Nats the game last night. Rod Barajas started his swing really early knowing he would get a fast ball.

Fear and Ignorance said...

Peric-Enough with the prospect talk. Every team in baseball has prospects that need to be developed. That is mutually exclusive from improving your big league club. Both can be done at the same time. The only prospects that have a shot at this team are Rosenbaum, Rendon, Purke, Solis, Meyer, Kobernus and Brown. None of them are going to help the big club this year. This is exactly the right time to go and get a rental-type player that can help you win in the short term.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

Nats1924, a regular 0-4 is acceptable every once in a while. That's baseball. This is bad at-bats and lack of contact. It is the quality of Espi's at-bats the entire season including Spring Training.

That 1st at-bat was 3 curveballs all intended to break out of the strike zone. 3 swing and misses at 3 almost identical pitches.

Next at-bat he starts him with the same pitch and Espi luckily was "taking" and it was a ball inside. I wonder if he was given the take sign or if he finally recognized the pitch. The pitcher than threw the same curve except this time brought it into the strike zone and Espi took again and it was a called strike. It was just downhill from there.

Matt Stairs last year looked bad and the excuse was he lost bat speed and focus. This may be more frustrating watching a kid with talent struggle night after night where you know Espi is hurting. Sure, in Anaheim they are suffering with Pujols and with other teams they have their own problems. Here is a player with MiLB options who is making league minimum and a very suitable replacement (Lombo) is sitting on the bench.

Section 3, My PFB Hitterish Sofa said...

Regarding the question yesterday why Werth didn't go directly to the 60-day--they aren't allowed to do that unless they need the spot, by rule. #H/T per Brian at NFA, via Scooter.

natsfan1a said...

Awesome. On a related note, given that the Post recently ran an article bemoaning Nats attendance, no doubt it's only a matter of time until they run one on O's attendance (the Nats attendance evidently having increased by almost five times as much per game in 2012 as for the team up north). :-)



Ghost Of Steve M. said...

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/dc-sports-bog/post/hey-look-empty-seats-at-citizens-bank-park/2012/05/09/gIQAYEBCDU_blog.html

Enjoy the photos in the Sports Bog. Sure, the seats were pre-sold but they didn't show up. Hope that trend continues although plausible excuses were Flyers playoffs, Sixers playoffs, Tuesday night, chilly weather, yadda yadda yadda
May 09, 2012 1:14 PM

natsfan1a said...

On topic, always did enjoy his glove, but it's been fun seeing what a healthy LaRoche brings with his bat.

Theophilus T. S. said...

I posted the following on the previous thread before realizing Mark had moved on to the subject of LaRoche.

I'm reposting just to give folks something more to be agitated about.

" To paraphrase John Thompson, Jr., "Everybody wants to win. Give me a player who hates to lose."

Should we say HRodriguez doesn't hate losing enough to learn how to pitch? Instead of just throwing?

At least Ryne Duren had an excuse -- he couldn't see home plate.

I don't know whether Rodriguez is an irredeemable lunkhead but they can't afford a half-dozen more losses to find out.

Don't want to upset the rational order of things that they have currently in the bullpen -- Stammen long, Mattheus 7, Clippard 8, Burnett LOOGY.

So maybe Jackson should close, a la Smoltz, when Wang comes back. He seems to be able to navigate one or two innings without peril, if not necessarily three or four."

I have no idea what to do w/ Espinosa, except to send him to the Mexican Winter League to make him learn to hit curveballs.

SCNatsFan said...

Well it looks like Davey is sticking with Espinosa no matter what. He knows more about baseball then I do - just a little - but eventually Davey will have to cave and see you can't continually give away multiple ABs every game when your team is below average offensively. We just can't afford to give these outs away and, like him as a person or not, Danny is overmatched since pitchers figured him out after the halfway point last year.

A DC Wonk said...

I don't know whether Rodriguez is an irredeemable lunkhead but they can't afford a half-dozen more losses to find out.

Clippard had eight losses two years ago (when he was Henry's age). Was it worth it? Or should he have been disposed of?

That old-school, prestigious way of Scooter said...

Absolutely, Wonk. It nauseates me to see that lunkhead Clippard still on the roster.

A DC Wonk said...

Absolutely, Wonk. It nauseates me to see that lunkhead Clippard still on the roster.

Now we're talking! ;-)

Same deal with LaRoche -- I mean, he really stunk it up last year. Shoulda gotten rid of him and sucked it up and sign the 20-year-40-gazillion contract with Fielder.

Werth stunk last year, too -- shoulda ditched him and signed Coco Crisp. Crisp is almost at the Mendoza line already!

And the most obvious move was that we shoulda canned Desmond, because by June of last year, we all knew that he would _never_ be able to be a good fielder, and _never_ be a decent hitter.

Sheesh -- why can't the front office recognize these things!!

Theophilus T. S. said...

I didn't say they needed to "dispose" of Rodriguez -- just don't rely on him to close. When he can't "close," the Nats lose. If he -- or Clippard -- gives up a run in the 7th or 8th, they still have an AB or two to tie or win.

Having said that, if Rodriguez is just another 7th or 8th inning guy, they've got others -- Mattheus, Clippard, Lidge, etc. -- who can do that. So maybe there's some sucker GM out there who'll give them something in exchange for his "potential." Do you want to be in the position a year from now of letting him walk away for nothing or being forced to give him $4MM in arbitration? In other words, how long can you let him be the JaVale McGee of relief pitchers?

yankish2 said...

I agree with you #4; Ramos has got to be able to block Henry's pitches in the dirt.

Maybe I missed it, but I would have thought Mark would have expressed a concern about Wilson's defensive deficiencies...can't cut down the runner stealing second, can't make the tag on a runner at the plate, can't block pitches in the dirt which reduces Henry's effectiveness.

JD said...

I think that Espinosa is so lost at this point that almost any club would have sent him down to work things out; I am reasonably sure that if DeRosa was not hurt this would have happened by now.

As far as Peric's prospects: Chris Rahl is 28 and at AA - enough said. Jeff Kobernus is having a nice year at AA but he's nearly 24; he may be considered a prospect but just barely.

I think that part of Rizzo's problem here is that there are no good alternative options and trading Lannan isn't an option because he has been terrible this year in addition to being expensive. No contender will view him as an upgrade to what they have.

Ann Ominous said...

"I agree with you #4; Ramos has got to be able to block Henry's pitches in the dirt."

No, Henry has got to be able to NOT throw a pitch in the dirt when there are runners on base. Throwing pitches in the dirt is like throwing dice. Sometimes they come up right and the catcher can block them, other times they don't. You can't predict ahead of time which will be which.

If whatever pitch it is that Henry is bouncing (slider? curve? I've heard it called both) is his "out" pitch, and he can't throw it without bouncing it, then he needs to find another "out" pitch. He can bounce all the balls he wants to if there's no one on, but once there are baserunners the odds are that they will advance if he bounces multiple pitches. That's what did him in last night. Because he wild pitched the runner to third, he no longer could risk bouncing a pitch to Barajas. His only choice was the fastball, and Barajas was sitting on it.

REW said...

MOORE IS FREE! Do the same for Lombo and get rid of Nady!

JayB said...

Rizzo is hurting the team again. Overvaluing Nady, Roger, Moore....DeRosa before them.....He has a huge blind spot and is too stubborn to look at the facts objectively.

This team should win the division. This team will not because Rizzo is in denial about the poor off season moves he made.

JD said...

JayB,

I agree,

He should have signed Reyes, Pujols and Fielder for the bench instead of Nady, Tracy and DeRosa.

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