Adam LaRoche entered this season with a lot of disfavor in D.C. He was widely rumored to be on his way out in exchange for marquee free agent Prince Fielder after a dismal 2011, in which he hit just .172 in 43 games before being lost for the season to a torn labrum. Accordingly, his projections for this season by ZiPS were conservative, as he was forecasted to hit .236/.313/.415 with 14 home runs in just 99 games. His actual performance, however, far exceeded all expectations. He hit .271/.343/.510 with 33 home runs and 100 RBI in 154 games and earned a Gold Glove, becoming only the second National to do so after Ryan Zimmerman in 2009.
As if to dispel any doubts about his health or effectiveness, LaRoche started the 2012 season off hot, hitting .329 with four homers and an OPS of .964 in April. He missed four games at the beginning of May thanks to an oblique injury and was unable to maintain his previous pace, hitting just .208 over the next 42 games. He did maintain his power stroke, however, as he hit nine home runs and slugged .470 over that span leading into late June. He finally broke out of his schneid on June 26th against Colorado, as he went 2-4 with a walk, two home runs, three runs scored, and three RBI. Over the next 29 games, he hit .306/.361/.528 with six home runs, including a stretch where he hit home runs in three straight games, but his average was still low, sitting at .265 at the end of July.
LaRoche heated up at the beginning of August, hitting four home runs in the first five games of the month and .304 in the month’s first eleven games, but got cold again and hit just .194 with no home runs in the next 18 games until the end of the month. But just like he had in August, he started September off hot, hitting six home runs in the first six games and hitting .351 in the first 20 games. Unlike August, however, he managed to keep his pace, finishing the season off by hitting .270 over the season’s final ten games. In the postseason, LaRoche was a disappointing 3-17, good for a .176 average.Two of those three hits were home runs, however.
Season Highlight: May 8th against the Pirates, LaRoche was 2-3 with a walk and two RBI, including a go-ahead two-run home run in the top of the ninth that put the Nats ahead 4-3. The Nationals would go on to lose, unfortunately, as Henry Rodriguez allowed two runs in the bottom of the ninth, allowing the Pirates to walk off.
Next Season: LaRoche recently declined his half of his $10 million option for 2013, making him a free agent. However, the Nationals and LaRoche’s agent have been working towards a long-term deal for a while now, so barring any significant differences in the negotiations, look to see LaRoche back in a Nationals uniform next season, and for a few years to come.
Chien Ming Wang