When the Nats signed Adam LaRoche in January of 2011, nobody knew what kind of hitter to expect. That’s because, despite 4 strong seasons from 2006-2009 where he hit .276/.349/.500 and managed HR totals of 32, 21, 25 and 25, his 2010 was much worse. Hitting only .261/.320/.468 in Arizona that year, it could have certainly been an indicator that his best days were behind him. As a slick fielding first baseman, having a slightly above average OPS with some power might get you years on a bench, but it isn’t starter material.
Then, of course, came the injury last year. And it was an injury after a terrible start – he hit .172/.288/.258 in 43 games, about a quarter of a season. Many Nationals fans had him written off, and why not? After two years without performing, it would have been a stretch to think he could just turn it on. A 2011 spring training without any power hinted that maybe one of his redeeming qualities – the thought that no matter how bad he hit, he could still probably manage 20+ HRs, was in danger, too.
But he’s shot right out of the gate in these first 4 games. It’s way to early to talk about AVG/OBP/SLG for this year, but his 2 HRs have him one shy of what he did in close to two months last season. He’s hitting the ball hard – both were screaming line drives down the foul line – and he’s been the Nats best hitter in the very short season. After three strikeouts on Opening Day, he’s had a 4 for 5 day and a 2 for 3 day with a walk. So far, so good.
Looking back, if he really does turn this hot start into a strong season, it shouldn’t be that shocking either. Ignorning 2011, a year lost to injury out, he had one bad year after 4 strong, although not All Star caliber, seasons in a row. And even 2011 was true to form, as he is a notoriously bad starter (a big reason why he’s never sniffed an All Star game). His career April numbers are .215/.309/.397 – that isn’t a starting anything in this league. In fact, LaRoche’s numbers, for his career, climb every month until they peak in August. His career OPS in July is .870, and in August it’s .952.
Well, he didn’t get a July or August last year, so maybe he’s making up for losing his favorite months. And if he continues to do this, just enjoy it, because it isn’t that outlandish for him to have a strong season. And if he hits around .275, with approximately a .350 OBP and has an ISO floating near .200 to slug .475 or higher, it will fit in really nice on his Baseball Reference page as just another typical year for him, with 2010 and 2011 being the anomolies.