Adam LaRoche

As far as we can tell, Adam LaRoche appears to have retired, amid circumstances in which no one appears to have covered himself in glory.

Basically, as far as we can tell: LaRoche likes bringing his son in the clubhouse all the time. He told the White Sox GM that when he signed. The GM and manager both said sure. LaRoche and the Sox were both awful in 2015, and the GM’s boss decided that some changes were needed. So he told LaRoche to stop bringing his son into the clubhouse all the time. LaRoche peaced out. That’s pretty much it.

Adam LaRoche is one of the most successful draft-and-follow picks the Braves ever took — they got him in the 29th round in 2000. (This is a big part of what made Roy Clark’s reputation.) The son of longtime reliever
Dave LaRoche, Adam had big league bloodlines, a nice left-handed uppercut swing, and was coming off a JuCo World Series MVP at Seminole State, where he was an infielder and pitcher. The Braves took one look at him and thought “first baseman,” and that’s pretty much all he did as a professional: other than two chances as a right fielder and 1 2/3 IP as a pitcher in the minors, he was a first baseman for every single inning he played in seven years with the Braves.

Then, in January 2007, they traded him to the Pirates for another left-handed pitcher: Mike Gonzalez, who used to be known on this blog as “The Automatic Lefty.” (That was to distinguish him from “The Automatic Righty,” Rafael Soriano, whose retirement was announced yesterday.)

So… he was a polarizing player. As Mac wrote:

I don’t know if any Braves position player in the last nineteen years has suffered as much fan abuse as LaRoche. Maybe Blauser, over a longer period of time. There have been guys who were more hated, but they didn’t last long. LaRoche’s problems were twofold. First, he is, even when he is taking his ADD medication… I’ll say “laid-back”. Second, he isn’t Fred McGriff or Andres Galarraga. Of course, he looks a lot better when compared to Scott Thorman and Casey Kotchman.

As someone noted on a previous thread, we used to have a commenter named Landogarner who hated Adam LaRoche with a passion and referred to him as “Huckleberry.” Adam ran like a catcher, or slower, and had occasional mental lapses, many of which may have been related to his ADD — apparently, he only started taking Ritalin in 2006, his last year with a Braves before they traded him away. But, but: as Mac pointed out, he was “the best first baseman the Braves have produced since… Gosh, I don’t know when. If we don’t count Klesko, he might be the best they’ve produced in Atlanta.” He wrote that in 2004, and there’s really only one guy who’s supplanted him on the franchise list. Adam LaRoche is the second-best homegrown 1B in Atlanta history, behind only Freddie.

He came up with a pretty good defensive reputation, though between his lead feet and his mental lapses, advanced defensive metrics don’t like him. But he could hit. His average was usually between .250 and .270, and he generally struck out 130 times a year, but he drew a fair number of walks and hit 20-30 homers a year. In a twelve-year career, he was worth 14.1 rWAR and 11.3 fWAR. He was basically a below-average but above-replacement player.

A big part of the problem is that he was a notoriously slow starter. Over his entire career, he had a .713 OPS in April and an .815 OPS the rest of the time (including an .864 OPS from August 1 to the end of the year). Just for comparison, all hitters in baseball had a combined .705 OPS in April last year, and a .724 OPS the rest of the way. Adam’s hundred-point gap is an extreme outlier.

Given those splits, which were pretty well-known around here, it’s actually somewhat shocking that he was only involved in one real midseason trade, in 2009, when the Braves traded Casey Kotchman for him and he hit .325/.401/.557 in the final 57 games of the season. (He was actually involved in two trades in late July: first, the Pirates traded him to the Red Sox, and a week later, the Red Sox traded him to us. It was basically a delayed three-team trade.) It was about the only good thing the Kotch Rocket ever did for us.

He wasn’t very offensively consistent, as you might expect from a guy who typically spent the first half rediscovering his long, complicated swing, and that was dismaying to teams who employed him because he didn’t really have any other salable skills. His glove and legs certainly weren’t enough to keep him on the field. When his OPS+ was above 110, he was playable. When it was above 120, he was somewhere around league-average. And when that coincided with a decent year in the field, he was one of the better first basemen in the league. But that only happened in 2006, 2012, and 2014. The rest of the time, he mostly alternated average years with below-average years.

It’s kind of interesting that a player who was basically adequate inspired such strong reactions: though many fans around here absolutely loathed him, his teammates reportedly love him. But his sim scores compare him to guys like J.T. Snow and Jeff Burroughs and Matt Stairs, and that’s probably about right. Snow is an interesting case, because despite his six consecutive Gold Gloves, defensive metrics like TotalZone regard him about as poorly as LaRoche. And his bat wasn’t that much worse. In all, they were fairly similar players.

Even if not for the bizarre clubhouse squabble that appears to have precipitated his retirement, it’s probably not a bad time for him to go. He was good as a 34-year old in 2014, but he’s 36 now and coming off a dreadful campaign, and his best years are surely behind him, while his son’s best years are all ahead. He’ll have all the time in the world to go hunting with Chipper Jones. Twelve years in the big leagues and 255 homers from a 29th-round draft pick are nothing to sneeze at.

Enjoy the sunset, Adam.

44 thoughts on “Adam LaRoche”

  1. Adam missed, along with Jeffy, the cut for my revision of the 44 by the slimmest of margins. He had 260 Runs Created as a Brave.

    I have to disagree about his defense. His glovework was outstanding. Range was meh. But he could pick it.

  2. His defense was, at times, outstanding. But you couldn’t count on it, same as his bat. That’s why Mac had to write this, a decade ago:

    Adam LaRoche is a bad first baseman
    Defensively, I mean. However, he meets a minimum standard of competence. He catches the ball when it’s thrown to him. That doesn’t seem like much, but like I said it meets the minimum standard.

  3. If memory serves (and it has been known to lapse) wasn’t his move out of town precipitated by a slow roller that he sauntered out to and then back to the bag only to get beaten by the runner by a step? this was followed with a discussion of weather or not he was or was not taking his prescribed meds.

    To that point, I had remembered him as a guy who personified the John Woodenism, be quick, but don’t hurry. Afterwards, his rep took an unfortunate hit.

  4. Adam was aloof in temperament. At some point in the last 30 years, that which was heretofore a personality quirk became a diagnosable medical condition. All of the sudden, it was irresponsible to be “off your meds”, which incidentally were once called “speed”.

  5. @7,
    Except I’m probably younger than you and an expert in psychiatric diagnosis. It is interesting to see a window into your hilariously incorrect prejudices, though.

  6. 3 — Some of the comments in that old thread are hilarious.

    “..and I have called for Jurries to be called up now since Spring Training, so again, Lance, I agree with another thing you said. It’s the LADOUCHE defenders I have a problem with.”

    “and again, let me say Langerhans is great, has given us good production. I am not advocating him being moved in anyway. Get rid of the Douche”

  7. I have never been a fan of Adam. It was incredibly frustrating to know that your first baseman’s bat would disappear for the first three months of every season.

  8. I forgot just how great the Kotchman/LaRoche trade worked out for us. When we think of Kotchman, we think about getting fleeced on both of the Teixeira trades, but we redeemed ourselves pretty nicely with LaRoche’s second half of the 2009 season vs. Kotchman’s.

    Also interesting to note that early in LaRoche’s career, a .820 OPS put you at about 108 OPS+. Boy how times have changed.

  9. the batted ball
    it flights toward the outfield wall
    we best attend its vector
    inasmuch as it goes anywhere near Hector

  10. If it had all been good he wouldn’t have been waived. Can’t have too many lotto tickets. Or potassium benzoate.

  11. Hard to fathom why the Braves would grab him and stash him on the 60-day DL but the Pirates waived him to remove him from the 40-man.

    I’m certain he can only do so much while on the 60-day, probably limited to sim games at extended spring. I don’t imagine he can “rehab” in official minor league games unless he’s on the 40-man, in which case they’d simply assign him to a minor league club and it wouldn’t be a “rehab” at all.

    This was probably the calculus that led to Pittsburgh waiving him in the first place. If they’d cared about keeping him, they probably would have waived him as camp broke to obscure him behind the masses of waived players.

  12. I always liked LaRoche, but it was probably more because he was home grown than anything else. The more I read the rumors about what is going on in the White Sox clubhouse, the more I think circumstances of his retirement are about as bizarre as I can remember anyone’s retirement ever being. Even Frank Wren never caused a public clubhouse squabble like that.

  13. Yeah, spring has not been good to us. Strangely enough though, spring has reenforced the importance of a good bullpen to me. If we were actually trying to win and putting our top relievers out there throughout the game, we still wouldn’t be great, but we’d be a lot better. If our bullpen is decent, which it may be, I think we have a shot at 70 to 75 wins. If not, 100 loses are not out of the question, but unlikely.

  14. I hope the Braves know something we don’t, because Norris has been terrible all spring. At a time when “pitchers are ahead of hitters”, he’s been putrid.

    On the bright side, Wisler, Perez, and Chacin have looked decent, and we have 7 pretty solid candidates for the bullpen to start the season.

    If the bullpen’s good, I see 70-75 wins. If the bench is also decent, I see 75-80 wins. If Olivera, Garcia, and the catching duo turn in good years, then I could see 80-85 wins. Of course, not all of this will happen.

  15. If things go the way they usually do in the spring, Teheran and/or Chacin will probably pitch 6 no hit innings in their last ST start and then get shelled for the first few games of the regualar season. Otoh, Norris will probably go 4-0 with an ERA under 2 for the month of April.

  16. John Rocker
    the Long Island Rail Road shocker
    hoist with his own petard
    conversational commuting had never been so hard.

    Babe Ruth
    was widely known to have embellished the truth
    his hot dog and consortia totals
    still placing him in Baseball’s indulgent immortals.

  17. @15

    Jessie Biddle
    all alone, there, out in the middle
    looked in for his sign
    said Zeus, right, the pleasure is mine.

  18. Sure enough, there was no way the White Sox’ clubhouse was as united in their support of the daily presence of a 14-year-old kid as was initially reported. That made no sense from the start. Sounds like Ken Williams fielded some complaint(s), shielded the complainer(s), and took the bullet for them. And shed $13 million in supposedly sunk cost to boot. Playing on Adam’s sensitivity wasn’t the grandest gesture, to be sure, but from a team perspective this was a brutally elegant solution.

  19. If this is accurate, sansho1, it’s positively Machiavellian and might lead to a new book by Michael Lewis on how CEOs and GMs can get what they want by targeting the sensitivities of their low-performing team members…

  20. John McGraw
    was the oldest manager anyone ever saw
    by always wearing suits in the dugout
    was properly prepared for burial when finally drug out.

  21. Troy Glaus
    is best remembered for a double play that brought down the house
    the easy out being quite ignored
    had Fredi, frantic, falling on his sword.

  22. the raised mound
    resulted in change some felt oddly profound
    finding themselves suddenly taller
    vertiginous fear has affected the smaller.

  23. Yeah, the USA Today story on the Saga of Drake paints a very different picture than Chris Sale’s diatribes. And that’s what management is for, to impose rules for the benefit of all. A teammate shouldn’t be able to say I am going to cook cabbage/practice the tuba/work on my taxidermy/sell penny stocks at my locker, but hey, if anyone has any problems with this, let me know.

  24. Kenny Williams has never been one to chase popularity. It’s a longstanding trait of his. A lot of his deals are head-scratchers, some are outright brilliant, but no one could ever accuse him of indecisiveness. He’s an interesting guy.

  25. @31

    Well, it’s good to be told what Management itself is good for. And USA Today, must be right. Interestingly, as this story evolved in the media there was an early transposition in the roles of the two principals involved, good and bad,allegiances transferred, in these pages. Once that had happened the whole thing was polemicized it seemed with much rapid piling on in very black and white terms. And some continues.

    What concerns is the respect afforded, or rather the lack of it, to those now holding on to a minority view. Implicit scorn has been there to be read, triumphalism redux?! Surely not, it’s not what these pages are known for.

  26. Blazon, you need to get over yourself. Seriously.

    Allegiances transferred? Polemicized? Piling on? Implicit scorn? Triumphalism redux?

    Sweet Lord.

  27. @34
    my interpretation, otherwise i wouldn’t have bothered to write it…

    Folty strikes out Rasmus, 1 hit, no score, top 2nd.

  28. Bottom 3rd

    Folty back to back strikeouts first 2 batters, 6 pitches! then fly out 2-0 Braves

    more?? i would guess so

    bottom 3 we go in order 1,2,3

    Top 4 Folty still in, l/off single Correa..Beckham s/s, Jace 3rd..2 outs, Folty out after 51 pitches, 6 K’s

  29. Folty looked great. 4.2 innings, 1H, 1BB, 5 SO. 51 pitches, out of the game now.

    Edit… or what blazon said.

  30. Really encouraged with Folty. He did indeed look strong. Located his curve ball really well. He faced mostly major leaguers too. And that one hit he gave up should have been an out if Peterson had the arm for third.

  31. Carlos Correa…o dear…would he was ours…2 run blast high CF wall off ManBan

    still, Braves 6-3 after 5

  32. The Atlanta media is starting to drum up the case for frenchy. Has there been any doubt that he would make the team purely because of marketing purposes?

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