Adam LaRoche started out the 2012 season on fire. He absolutely had the best April of his career. Known as a notoriously slow starter with the bat, LaRoche traditionally heats up after April and May are over. During the first six weeks of this season, LaRoche exploded to a batting average of .336 through May 17th.
Since then LaRoche has been in a serious slump. After the Nats’ June 3rd loss to the Braves, LaRoche’s batting average stood at .276—a slide of sixty points in two weeks. Since May 17th, he has seven hits in forty-nine at bats over fourteen games. He is averaging a hit every two games. His batting average over the last fourteen games is an anemic .147. The Nationals cannot afford that lack of production from their four hole hitter.
What’s gone wrong for Adam? There are a few obvious things, one of which is that since the slump has started he is swinging at and missing outside pitches he was leaving alone when he was hitting well. That is the type of thing all slumping batters do, and should be pointed out to him by the Nats batting coaches (which I hope it has been already.) The problem may be related to something the Nats have yet to figure out. Adam LaRoche needs regular days off.
LaRoche is 32 years old. Let’s face it, as we age our stamina is not what it was when we were younger and recovery time from physical exertion takes longer. When I was nineteen, recovery from an all nighter was nothing. When I was 32 recovery from an all nighter took two days. Now it takes me a week to recover from a tough day at the office. LaRoche will benefit from regular rest as the season progresses.
The evidence seems clear. LaRoche only played for seven weeks last year before his shoulder injury put him on the DL for the rest of the year and he had surgery. Adam arrived at spring training after a nine month layoff from playing baseball. He had a bone bruise in his foot diagnosed in spring training that caused him to miss significant playing time. When the regular season started LaRoche was relatively fresh, having not played the full spring training. He went 0 for his first game, but then went on a hitting tear, carrying the injury riddled Nats lineup on his back.
LaRoche played all the games in April, but was off from May 3-7 battling a minor injury. After those four days off he continued to hit well, hitting .400 between May 8 and May 17, where he played ten games in a row. By May 23rd he had played 16 games in a row and the slide had started.
Adam should not be asked to play sixteen games in a row. He needs a regular day off regime where he gets an extra off day at least once every two weeks, or more often if he needs it. Now that Michael Morse is back with the team he is available to spell LaRoche at first base every ten games. This team needs the LaRoche that hits over 300 when he is well rested, not the LaRoche that hits .147 when he is not.