Adam LaRoche is supposed to be a slow starter, but instead he has been the Nationals’ best middle-of-the-order hitter. There was probably reason to scoff at him hitting cleanup after he whiffed three times on opening day. Since, LaRoche has smashed two homers, driven in eight runs and racked up a .992 OPS for the season.
LaRoche has quelled any concern about his surgically repaired right shoulder and reversed his career trend of wretched Aprils. In 715 career plate appearances in March or April, he had hit .215/.308/.394. This year, he won’t have to dig out of a hole.
“It helps,” LaRoche said. “It helps personally. I don’t want to get off to a slow start. More importantly, it’s helping the team win. Helping the team stay in some of these games, win some of these games, it feels good to be a part of it.”
Still, LaRoche said he wants to become more selective. He feels himself swinging at too many pitches out of the strike zone, and he’s walked three times compared to nine strikeouts.
“I’m not exactly where I want to be,” LaRoche said. “I’m not complaining about anything.”
The bone bruise in his left foot that hampered LaRoche during spring training has not completely disappeared. He has played every day without apparent issue, but he called the foot 80 percent healthy.
“After five or six innings, it starts aching,” LaRoche said. “It’s still there.”
In tackling the issue of LaRoche’s slow-start history, Manager Davey Johnson showed his understanding of small sample sizes. His example didn’t quite work, since LaRoche has enough plate appearances for a trend to be clearly established, but his take would warm the cockles of a stat-head’s heart.
“I think sometimes we look at numbers and categorize people and don’t really look at them in the proper manner,” Johnson said. “One thing about numbers is that the standard deviation chart states it takes 500 chances to be able to predict within plus or minus 5 percent. I don’t put a lot of stock in five years or six years of slow starts. If you’re a good hitter, there’s a time for you to hit. It’s not going to be me using this sheet with four at-bats.”