SIR: Adam LaRoche

BA/OBP/SLG: .278/.333 /.488

This year we got to see two Adam LaRoches.

Pre All-Star: .250/ .292/ .388
Post All-Star: .302/ .368/ .576

The first-half Adam couldn’t get on base 30% of the time with a slugging rate under .400. This is not what you want out of a first baseman. All signs pointed to a future with Chipper Jones at first and Andy Marte joining the team at third. But then something happened. LaRoche popped his collarbone on a play at the plate and Rochy was gone for a month. Overall, I don’t think he was missed during June. I thought he should spend some extra time in Richmond and start over in 2005. Boy, was I wrong. Adam came back with some fantastic numbers. What happened?

Had he fixed that hole in his swing? No, he never had a hole in his swing. In fact, he actually struck out at a greater rate in the second half than the first.

Pre All-Star: .20 (K/PA) / .21 (K/AB)
Post All-Star: .21 (K/AB) / .25 (K/AB)

His swing is a bit odd-looking, but so what? While it may seem to defy all the laws of physics, I have never noticed a problem with hitting the inside pitch.

What happened was that he acquired (or recovered) plate discipline.

Walk Rate / Iso-Power / HR per AB
Pre All-Star: .055/ .138 / 50.7
Post All-Star: .093/ .273 /17.2

In the second-half, Adam became more selective with his swing. He stopped swinging at all strikes and started waiting for his pitch. He stayed back off balls out of the zone and waited for pitches he could drive. This was the player we saw in Richmond in 2003 with an 11% walk rate. While his second-half power numbers are a little higher than his minor league comps, that is probably a result of his only hitting against right-handers.

So was this just an adjustment to the majors or random chance? What should we expect next year? I think his minor league stats indicate that the second half was not a fluke. While he might drop off his second-half numbers some next year, I think he has played well enough to keep Chipper at third. It’s also important to remember that if Adam becomes an everyday player, we can’t expect these platoon-aided numbers. But, I think he will be good enough to play everyday. Someone whom I know and trust has told me that Adam’s “injury” was actually not a discrete event. He played the entire first half hurt, and, like a good ball player should, he kept it out of the media. The collision gave him an opportunity to heal. And I think he proved that he has a place on the Braves next season, possibly everyday.

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