Friday, August 2, 2013

LaRoche's down-and-up-and-down season

Associated Press
There's no one reason the Nationals find themselves where they do right now, four games under .500 entering a weekend series in Milwaukee. And there's no one player most responsible for this disappointing season.

But some players have been more disappointing than others, and Adam LaRoche ranks high on that list.

A crucial part of last season's NL East championship lineup, LaRoche was brought back over the winter under the premise that his presence was too vital to this club for the next two years to let him sign elsewhere. Mike Rizzo waited out LaRoche, who was seeking three guaranteed years, then finally inked him to a two-year, $24 million deal that includes a $15 million mutual option for 2015.

The end result — or, at least, the result through the first four months of this season — hasn't come close to what Rizzo and the Nationals expected.

LaRoche enters play tonight hitting .232 with 14 homers and 46 RBI, well behind his typically metronome-like career pace and even farther behind the career-best numbers he posted one year ago.

There were 25 major-league first basemen last season who qualified for the batting title. Among his peers, LaRoche ranked 13th in batting average, 10th in ob-base percentage and sixth in slugging percentage, earning his first career Silver Slugger Award in the process.

There are 26 qualifying first basemen at this point this season, and LaRoche now ranks 23rd in batting average, 22nd in on-base percentage and 23rd in slugging.

What is most striking, though, about LaRoche this year isn't the overall numbers, but the complete up-and-down nature of his offensive performance. Or, to be more precise: down-and-up-and-down.

LaRoche began the season in one of the worst offensive slumps of his career, batting a paltry .129 with a .204 on-base percentage and .247 slugging percentage through his first 25 games. But after analyzing video of his swing with former Braves teammate Chipper Jones, LaRoche went on a sustained tear. Over his next 58 games, he hit .313 with a .402 on-base percentage and .532 slugging percentage.

The problem: The 33-year-old has fallen back into another prolonged slump, this one actually worse than his season-opening funk. Over his last 18 games, LaRoche is hitting .119, with a .167 on-base percentage and paltry .224 slugging percentage.

He has always been a streaky hitter, but this year seems to be particularly extreme. The good news: Because he has dealt with these things before, LaRoche has confidence he'll break out of it.

"It feels like a lot of what I've been through throughout my career," he said. "I go back and watch film, work on some small things, see if I can pinpoint it. For whatever reason, it takes one good swing, one bloop hit and I can find it and get going."

The bad news: Even if he rediscovers his lost stroke, it might be too late for LaRoche to make the kind of positive impact on the Nationals in 2013 that he did in 2012.

36 comments:

Kiterp said...

I love reading the articles but I read this one as nothing more than stating the obvious and opening the floodgates for the haters walk all over ALAR even more. His contributions on D make up for a lot of his abysmal struggles with the bat

alexva said...

I was hoping for some confirmation from him that he's healthy.

SonnyG10 said...

Its probably already too late for Adam to help get to the post season, even if he finds his stroke tonight. A lot of other players need to find their stroke as well.

jeeves said...

Even after his best ever season, teams were not even close to lining up for his services. Interestingly, I didn't see one fantasy site that listed him better than sixteenth in their preferred list of first basemen and at least two had him at twentieth or worse of all first basemen. I certainly didn't buy that, but there were a lot of baseball people that weren't all that impressed.
And no I am not a hater, and no, LaRoche's defense doesn't even come close to making up for the poor offence. I would take Fielder and his mediocre defense any day.
I am aware that a team who picked up Adam would lose a draft pick and that I didn't read all the fantasy sites.

NatsJack in Florida said...

Billy Burns promoted to Harrisburg.

NatsJack in Florida said...

That last post was for Joe Seamhead.

Kirbs said...

I image its a health issue....and shall I be the first to say, chipper for hitting coach!! Haha.

Tcostant said...

I won't second guess it, I was on board with ALR for two years...

JD said...

Tcostant

Me too.but I think we should re evaluate.

NatsJack in Florida said...

That makes 3 of us.

NatsLady said...

Tcostant and JD, me three. It would be great if LaRoche could go on a hot streak for two months, and we could somehow get to "meaningful games in September." Thing is, I'm sure he knows even more than fans that he's not cutting it right now.

baseballswami said...

ALR looks like he is still physically unwell. Free Tyler Moore. Start platooning them for the inevitable transition. It's time. At this point the hitting can't be a net loss and probably the defense not so much either. Then you have either Moore or ALR on the bench, which is better than what we have now. Time to do things that help the organization for the rest of this season and the future.

NatsJack in Florida said...

Sorry NL, you make 4.

NatsJack in Florida said...

Swami...The next time Tyler comes up, I want him in the lineup every day.

NatsJack in Florida said...

It's time to find out if he can do it.

baseballswami said...

NatsJack- I really do agree. Sending guys down to get right is fine, but at some point they become the team, need to be traded, or a valuable resource deteriorates. The gap between Moore and ALR is much smaller than it used to be. I am not sure that ALR us up to being an everyday guy for a full season anymore. But can you imagine a well rested lefty bat like his can be late in a game? Time for a changing of the guard- nothing more to lose by doing it now.

bowdenball said...

NatsJack-

Moore had 71 plate appearances in the Nationals' 28 games during the month of May. That's more than 2.5 plate appearances per game. He hit .123/.183/.231.

I'm not saying that reflects his real ability level, but I don't think playing time was the issue. He got plenty of it in May and he hit like a pitcher. Not sure another month of regular major league ABs well tell us much more than the last month did.

Laddie Blah Blah said...

"Billy Burns promoted to Harrisburg."

The kid is moving up faster than I thought he would. He has earned it. Not only does he have a .417 OBP and a 90% + success rate stealing bases, he doesn't strike out, either. Makes contact about 90% of the time. If he keeps doing all that, he is the Nats leadoff hitter of the future.

NatsLady said...

bowdenball, that's my recollection also. Moore played a reasonable amount and didn't make the cut. Now, maybe he figured it out in Syracuse, but my main point would be, if ALR needs a rest, Moore would be the candidate.

John C. said...

The question of TyMo vs. ALR is tougher than it looks, because this season at the major league level TyMo didn't even reach ALR's slumping level of production. Some have tried to compare Moore to Morse, but while both have power Morse hit for higher average at every stop along the way, minors and majors. As long as there is ANY hope, the team should stick with ALR. Sending in Moore is throwing in the towel on 2013.

Doc said...

It's a sad tale all around for our Nats, not just ALR.

NatsJack in Florida said...

Goodwin to the 7 day DL caused the call up.

NatsJack in Florida said...

John C....agreed. My comment on Tyler was intended for the worst case. I feel it's time to see if Tyler can handle every day work at the ML level. No more platooning.

alexva said...

normally I'd go along with the Moore doubters but right now he is red hot, ALR is anything but and it's time for desperate measures

John C. said...

Because we've talked about the minor leagues in this thread, a tidbit from the end of the previous thread. When the success of the Nats minor league teams, especially the Gulf Coast League Nationals (30-6!!), was mentioned Natsguy trotted out that the success in general, especially the GCL Nats, should be discounted because (he said) the team was essentially an example of "too old for level" - older players smacking around teenagers. The criticism of the age levels is an old one, but is no longer really valid. The speculation is that when the Nats were terrible Rizzo focused more on players closer to the big leagues, where now that the MLB roster is in better shape he can draft more for tools/talent.

Specifically if you look at the GCL Nationals roster, most of their impact players ARE basically teenagers; many of them are products of the Nationals' presence in the Dominican Republic and recent graduates of the DSL. For example:

Drew Ward, 18 (3rd round pick 2013): .339/.441/.470
Randy Novas, 18 (DSL grad): .341/.420/.455
Bryan Mejia, 19 (DSL grad): .286/.321/.419
Jose Marmolejos-Diaz, 20 (DSL grad): .306/.358/.432
Diomedes Eusabio, 20 (DSL grad): .373/.385/.549

Adderling Ruiz, a DSL product who got hurt last year and is repeating the GCL, is the only age-inappropriate bat that is really leading the GCL Nats (Ruiz, a catcher who just turned 22, is destroying the GCL to the tune of .342/.468/.526). I'm willing to give Ruiz a bit of a pass since he only played 11 games last year, but he clearly belongs in Auburn or Potomac.

On the mound, having just turned 19 Giolito isn't even the youngest guy on the staff - Travis Ott is a year younger, although he has been inconsistent. But leading the way as young arms are:
Matthew Derosier (just turned 19, 24th round pick 2013): 1-1, 2.08 ERA, .894 WHIP.
Jefry Rodriguez (just turned 20 last week, DSL grad):
3-0, 2.10 ERA, 1.200 WHIP.
Hector Silvestre, 20 (DSL grad): 4-0, 3.10 ERA, 1.000 WHIP.
Nicholas Pivetta, 20 (4th round 2013): 1-0, 2.13 ERA, 1.026 WHIP

It's nice to see the Dominican presence feeding into the GCL and hopefully higher. As to success being a product of advancing age, all of the players above are at or below the GCL league median age. According to B-R, the median batters' age for the GCL is 19.6 years. Overall the GCL Nats average batters' age is ... 19.7 (tied for 8th in a 16 team league). The median pitchers age for the league is 20.5, and the Nats average pitcher's age is 21.5 (11th). The figures are weighted for playing time, if you're curious.

The bottom line is: don't dismiss the GCL Nats' success so readily. It's a long way from the GCL to Nats Town, but the success of the GCL Nats, and the minor league teams overall, is a very good sign for the future.

Section 222 said...

Ty-Mo is hitting very well in Syracuse, but he's been there less than a month and played 18 games since he went back down. Are all of you calling for him to replace ALR sure he has "figured it out"? It's kind of a big step to just replace ALR, not to mention the defensive dropoff.

Roberto Fenili said...

Adam LaRouche is like the song. Take the money and run...except it was take money and relax. Maybe next season when his contract is expiring, he will hit again....until then he is a dog, a dog that wont hunt. If defense was so important the Nats could have gotten Loney or Overbay for pennies on the LaRouche dollar

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

As mentioned earlier, all the people stating the great LaRoche defense hasn't received what they think they are getting.

LaRoche's UZR range component has dropped from +3.5 last year to a -2.2 this year. He is 2nd to last in the Majors this year in UZR. Yes, his ability to scoop poor throws is valuable but if you move RZim to 1st then you really don't need that great scooping ability.

To compensate for all those doubles getting past LaRoche, you would hope he had a mid to upper 800's OPS and he doesn't.

Again, you solve 2 problems since RZim is now a big defensive liability by moving RZim to 1st and getting LaRoche to the bench to replace Tracy.

Chase Headley is a FA after next season. I would target him and if not him Kyle Seagar who would cost more.

I believe that Ryan Zimmerman will be a Gold Glove 1st baseman and his right-handed glove will help on balls down the line.

Section 222 said...

I believe that Ryan Zimmerman will be a Gold Glove 1st baseman and his right-handed glove will help on balls down the line.

True. His RH arm might not be very good at the 3-6-3.

Tcostant said...

We should be glad that Rizzo held his ground at least didn't go to a 3rd year on ALR.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

Section222, I saw Pujols as a RH arm make those 3-6-3 dps as a righty. You have to clear further from the running lane to make a good throw. It takes practice and RZim wouldn't be the 1st righty first baseman in history.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

Tcostant, don't you wish he held to 1 year?

Section 222 said...

Ghost, I know that. I was alluding to RZ's arm in particular. Of course, he'll be able to throw side arm, which is easier for him.

ALR is very strong at the 3-6-3, and I think you underestimate the importance of his ability to scoop. (Ty-Mo definitely hasn't mastered that skill.) But I agree that his range has been unimpressive this year, and, you have to admit, he doesn't have much of a stretch either.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

LaRoche's OPS is at .718 currently and outside of ALR's disastrous year of 2011, .775 was his worse OPS season from 2005. In comparison ALR is a career .812 OPS.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

Section222, the reason I under-estimate the scoop is because it should be a rarely used part of the defense. Once you move RZim, you have to worry about 2 scoops per week from Desi.

Scoops should be the exception and not the rule. LaRoche was brought back to support Ryan's poor arm or else Rizzo would've stuck with Morse.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

Section 222 said...
But I agree that his range has been unimpressive this year, and, you have to admit, he doesn't have much of a stretch either.


Agreed, I said it in April that he's having dificulty stretching out. He looks stiff out there. When you look at the only 1st baseman worse on Range it's Prince Fielder and nobody else.

Generally a player doesn't regress that much so I have to think it's his back or another injury he isn't disclosing.

I've seen him miss balls in the past 2 weeks on hard grounders that were routine for him last year.

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