Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Time for a breakout?

Adam LaRoche, May 6th, 2006: .207/.318/.467, 5 HR, 31 Ks
Adam LaRoche, May 6th, 2007: .167/.271/.284, 3 HR, 33 Ks
Adam LaRoche, May 6th, 2008: .206/.289/.333, 3 HR, 33Ks

I've said this again and again, but LaRoche didn't break out until almost June last year. It's early May and he's nearly got his OPS to .700, which was a number he battled with until June 30th last year (first topping it on June 6th). In his past nine games, he's hitting .355/.444/.613 with two of his three homers and two of his four doubles. It certainly seems possible that the LaRoche breakout we've been waiting for is just about here.

It's incredibly frustrating to watch LaRoche flail around at the plate in April, but it's really something we're just going to have to accept for as long as he's our first baseman. If all of his off-season work only served to help him break out of his slump on April 26th (the beginning of that nine game stretch I mentioned above) as opposed to mid-May, then it paid off at least a little bit.

I'm no hitting coach, but I think LaRoche's early season problems all lie in that big swing of his. It's like a work of art to watch it when he's killing the ball, but bigger swings are always harder to adjust when a hitter is struggling. I think he has a very hard time getting his timing down because of it early in the season, once the real games start. I get that there's spring training to do that, but you only have to watch one spring game to know that things just flow differently in the spring than they do in the season. I don't imagine any hitting coach is going to try and strip him of his defining characteristic, and I don't know if he'd be the same hitter with a shorter swing, but if he doesn't change his swing at least a little bit, I don't think he's ever going to hit early in the year.