An Artificial Breakout?

Yesterday, Adam LaRoche was the subject of Bob Ley’s Outside the Lines on ESPN. The show focused on LaRoche’s change in performance since going on the ADD drug Concerta. The implication was that the drug was responsible for Adam’s up-tick in performance. In this morning’s AJC, Dave O’Brien is critical of the program for offering no other explanation of Rochy’s improvement and suggests an alternate explanation:

In edited interviews with LaRoche and other Braves players, no mention was made of another factor the team believes helped him turn his season around — playing every day, instead of being benched vs. left-handed pitchers. …

He began taking medication in late June — the same week he started playing vs. lefties after platoon partner Brian Jordan broke a collarbone.

I rarely watch Ley’s show, which I like, but I just happened to catch this one. I, too, thought the accusation that the medicine, which is on the banned substance list, was sole cause of LaRoche’s turnaround was off-base. However, I don’t think batting against lefties has anything to do with it. If anything, it makes his job more difficult.

Let’s look at LaRoche’s splits by month.

April		.747
May 		.910
June 		.756
July 		1.043
August 		1.239
September 	.947

He certainly has performed better since June; however, that May wasn’t too shabby. Unfortunately, I don’t have a simple method for calculating PrOPS by month, but I can tell you that I’ve monitored them all season, and he had been underperforming earlier in the season. Couple this with the fact that he underperformed in 2005, and his numbers seem more outrageous. It’s not a stretch to suggest that the medication is helping, but he should have been given some credit for his maturation as a hitter. I certainly don’t think that Adam’s performance is beyond the realm of the ability he demonstrated before going on the drugs. But, no one asked me—or anyone else—and it’s a subject that should have been addressed.

7 Responses “An Artificial Breakout?”

  1. Mac says:

    It’s my belief that while the platoon advantage is real, in some circumstances it can be made up for because the hitter improves when he’s in the lineup every day. More here. The question becomes if he improves enough so that his PAs against lefties aren’t hopeless, or if he can do enough against righties to make it worthwhile anyway.

  2. Frank says:

    I wonder if the ban on Concerta (or any other drug for ADD) would withstand legal action. Under the ADA, allowing players with ADD to take drugs might be considered a reasonable workplace accommodation.

    Here’s a (not serious) suggestion–if the drug really is part of LaRoche’s improvement, maybe the Braves should include a Concerta clause in his next contract.

  3. Andrew says:

    Watching the Braves day-in day-out, it seems that LaRoche’s defense has improved considerably since Concerta but his hitting is about the same–not by outcome but he hits line drives before and after (PrOPS suggests this I imagine).

  4. Marc says:

    What I find outrageous is that has-beens like Dwight Stones try to cast aspersions on a guy taking medication for a legitimate medical condition; ie, too bad if he needs it, we didn’t use stuff like that in MY day. Yeah, sure.

    The medication probably helped his concentration, but that’s not the same thing as directly improving his hitting. Lots of guys can concentrate but can’t hit. That’s why it seems to me the allegation is so off-base. He had a medical condition that arguably hindered his performance; the medication, if it did anything, simply put LaRoche on a level playing field with other players. It certainly didn’t give him any particular advantage. You might as well say that they shouldn’t allow near-sighted players to wear glasses or contacts because it gives them an advantage.

    The fact is, the Braves obviously thought LaRoche would be a good hitter and he was always considered a good prospect, although, many fans, including me, doubted this before, it’s not that crazy that he has improved. If this was something like Ken Ray becoming a 20-game winner, then you could say something funny was going on.

  5. dlf says:

    He had a medical condition that arguably hindered his performance; the medication, if it did anything, simply put LaRoche on a level playing field with other players.

    Lil’ Tony Pena has a medical condition that inarguably hinders his performance: he is too weak to hit a line drive past the pitcher’s mound. Anabolic steroids would clearly help this condition and put him on a level playing field with other more medically sound players.

    Actually this isn’t such a hypothetical. Earlier this summer, a former Oriole (David Segui, I think) announced that he had been allowed by the commissioner’s office to take hGH due to a particular medical condition.

    Where do we draw the line between what is medically reasonable and what is solely a performance enhancer? And no, a licensed physician’s diagnosis is not enough — see recent news stories about the Carolina Panthers team doctor.

  6. sclin says:

    I’ve seen medications work wonders in ADD, it could be a completely transforming experience, especially the first time they take it. Many people liken that to wearing glasses for near-sighted. Being able to concentrate and ignore distractions, I imagine, would be a big part of the game in a stadium packed with tens of thousands of people. This ability is what is lacking in ADD. Taking medications really put him on a level playing field with others, and I’d imagine it helps his off-field life to be more disciplined as well. When I first learned LaRoche has ADD, I wondered why he didn’t take medication, and now I think he’s made the right choice.

  7. jon says:

    I disagreed with Stone’s larger stance of no exceptions what so ever. I do agree with the examples he gave and that there needs to be some sort of check on players to really confirm they have these conditions or diseases. He mentioned the increase in the number of “narcoleptic” sprinters. If we allow people to take these meds with just a doctors note in essence, it will be abused and very quickly. What each league needs to do is hire a few doctors or contract with a few to independently evaluate each player who requests and exemption. After all, the Panther players did have prescriptions. Only if the league doctor says yes they do have this condition and yes they need this banned drug, not some other medication that is not banned, can they get their exemption.