Pirate fans become restless when Adam LaRoche comes to town. Whether they greet him with hatred at PNC Park or stomp on him on internet message boards, LaRoche usually doesn’t receive a positive reception, although it has become better recently. LaRoche was brought to Pittsburgh in 2007 to fill a hole: a power hitting first baseman that could utilize the short porch in right field as a left-handed hitter. Jim Tracy was quoted as saying, “Getting Adam LaRoche brings a big-time dynamic to our lineup.” However, the laid-back lefty, who is now 32 years of age, never produced early in the season when most Pirates fans were focused on the action. Many fans are deceived by this, as LaRoche usually began producing later in the season when the Bucs were long out of the race. Therefore, was LaRoche really that terrible in his time with the Pirates? Let’s take a look.
Adam LaRoche appeared in 375 games for Pittsburgh from April 2007 to July 2009. In his first season with the club, he hit just .133 with 3 HR and 11 RBI in the month of April, leaving many frustrated with his lack of production and 30 strikeouts in the middle of the lineup. He started to heat up in May, and really turned on the jets in June. Despite hitting just .238 that month, LaRoche produced 5 HR and 18 RBI, and also tacked on 10 doubles. However, with the Pirates far out of the race, many fans missed his strong middle of the season and remained phased by his poor start. LaRoche finished 2007 with 21 HR, 88 RBI, and a .272 average, while the Pirates were in the cellar of the Central with a record of 68-94.
LaRoche came back again in 2008 with a terrible April, as he hit .163 with just 1 HR and 5 RBI. But he once again heated up by mid-season, especially in July. LaRoche hit .390 with 7 HR and 18 RBI that month. However, the Pirates once again were eliminated early, finishing last again and worse than 2007, with a record of 67-95. Still, he had another solid season with 25 HR and 85 RBI.
He had a better April in 2009, but he was entering his final few months as a Pirate. He hit .269 that month with 5 HR and 14 RBI, much better than in his previous Pirates seasons. In his 87 Pirates games that season, he hit 12 HR and 40 RBI. He was then shipped to the Boston Red Sox for just 6 games before being transferred back to Atlanta. LaRoche had no such slow start this season: he hit .329 with 4 HR and 17 RBI for the Nationals in April.
While his solid numbers didn’t mean much for a miserable ball club, he still doesn’t deserve such a bad rap. Sure he faced his share of strikeouts and slumps, but that is to be expected from a power hitter. His slow starts were certainly deceiving, even though he did seem to always heat up later in the season when the Pirates were out of the race.
Still, we’d easily take a 25 HR – 85 RBI season from a first baseman. Such a season would be huge for the light-hitting Pirates lineup. Garrett Jones has done decently, but is still fairly inconsistent. Jones also has varying roles, as you don’t know whether he’ll be in the lineup or not. He’s been platooned, taken out for defensive replacements, and everywhere in between. For example, Jones received 169 less at-bats less in 2011 than 2010. With Adam LaRoche, you pretty much knew what you were getting. He was an everyday player who put up solid numbers, despite often enduring slow starts. We hope he finds some success with a young Nationals team.