LaRoche’s Slow Start No Reason for Panic

With White Sox designated hitter Adam LaRoche off to a slow start for the 2015 White Sox, many fans are concerned, and rightfully so. After all, his performance in the batter’s box has reminded us far too much of the last DH we signed away from the Washington Nationals: Adam Dunn.

However, we must keep in mind that LaRoche has had a long, productive career, so it would be silly to jump to too many conclusions based on a one-month sample size.

Adam’s .220/.333/.354 line isn’t anything to write home about, and since he hit three home runs and drove in eight runs in a six-day span in mid-April, he really hasn’t produced at all (just two RBI) over the past few weeks. And the other cause for concern is his 32.3% K-rate in the season’s early goings.

Thankfully there are plenty of numbers that tell us it is not time to panic about the Sox’ $25M man … at least not yet.

For one, don’t look too much into his .220 batting average. Even with that number way down from his .263 lifetime mark, his .333 on-base percentage is just a tick below his .339 career mark. For someone whose presence in the middle of the lineup is based solely on his production and on-base skills, that should tell you that he could be doing much worse and that he could very easily be up closer to the .362 OBP he put up for the Nats last year once he busts out of this funk.

But do the numbers provide us with reason to believe that this really is just a slump for LaRoche? They sure do.

Over his 11-year career, LaRoche has notoriously been a slow starter. His month-by-month splits break down as follows…

  • March/April: .222/.316/.397
  • May: .261/.346/.457
  • June: .260/.336/.456
  • July: .262/.320/.462
  • August: .288/.364/.520
  • September/October: .288/.354/.529

To be fair, we’ll point out that those splits reversed themselves last season in Washington when he started out on fire and struggled in July and part of August. Still, with as long of a career as LaRoche has had, it certainly seems fair to put him in the ‘slow starter’ category.

So if you ask me, what we have in the 35-year-old Orange County-native is a proven hitter that is simply going through a power drought. His on-base skills have not been far from where the team needs them to be, which suggest that he’s seeing the ball just fine.

And it’s not as if we haven’t seen any production out of his bat. Through April 18th, everything was looking just fine for LaRoche who then had 3 HR and 8 RBI. It’s been hard to watch him flounder his way to nothing but 2 RBI, mainly out of the cleanup spot, since then, but I don’t think it would be fair to hit the panic button on a guy with such a steady track record that spans over a decade because of a rough couple of weeks.

Not to mention, he’s always struggled against lefties, so the fact that he’s hitting .217/.250/.304 against them amidst his slow start should come as no shock. Given that I expect to see him look a lot better at the plate in the near future, paired with the fact that he does have a .361 OBP and a .734 OPS vs RHP, I am not worried about the long-time National Leaguer.

So if the numbers say anything, it has to be that the best is yet to come for LaRoche on the south side. The first order of business for Adam will be cutting down on the K’s … if he can do that, the Sox should be getting the  cleanup hitter they thought they were signing this past winter.

Photo Credit: Jon Durr, Getty Images

Zachary Gropper

About Zachary Gropper

Zach is the Managing Editor of GrabSomeBench.com, and you can follow him on Twitter @zmgrop.

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