Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche have batted right next to each other almost every day this season, but in July their results could not have been farther apart. Jayson Werth may win the National League player of the month award for the second straight July – he posted a 1.132 OPS and 1.6 wins above replacement, the most in the majors.
LaRoche could be found at the opposite end of the July leader boards. He may have been the Nationals’ best hitter over the first three months of the season. In July, LaRoche produced a .465 OPS, lowest among qualified NL players and third-worst in the majors.
The poor month spurred LaRoche to change nothing. Over the course of his career, LaRoche has learned how to react to the way he feels at the plate as opposed to the results he produces. In July, even as his numbers cratered, LaRoche felt almost the same as when he was one of the league’s most productive hitters.
“As a hitter, you can look at results or you can look at the feeling you have at the plate,” LaRoche said. “I can go up, when I know I’m on some pitches and I know I just missed one and the result’s not there, that’s one thing. Like, ‘I know it’s there. It’s close.’ The other, if you’re just worried about strictly the results, that can kind of start to wear you down. You can take some good at-bats – which I feel like I’ve done – and be 1 for 10 in that little stretch, and feel something needs to change even though you’re feeling pretty good.”
When LaRoche slumps, strikeouts tend to pile up. But in July he whiffed 18 times in 101 plate appearances – the same 17.8-percent rate as the rest of his season, the lowest of his career since 2005. LaRoche walked only nine times, down from his career-best rate from the first half of the season. “Probably a sign that I’m getting a little too aggressive,” LaRoche said. But otherwise, he felt confident that his swing hadn’t changed.
“It feels okay,” LaRoche said. “Still just missing some balls. I don’t know if it’s pulling off at the last second, something small. I’ve just missed a ton of balls in the last month – just foul, or just got under them enough to get it to the warning track. So it’s close. In a lot of these games, I feel like I’m squaring up balls. It’s been a lot worse.”
LaRoche has started August by going 3 for 8, and Friday night he pounded an RBI double to the warning track.