Washington Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche won his first Gold Glove Award and it is well deserved. No one who followed the Nationals in 2012 is surprised.
LaRoche was not only the best first baseman in the National League, but the best defensive player on his team. His .995 fielding percentage while only committing seven errors just scratches the surface of what LaRoche did for Washington.
In his first full season as the Nationals regular first baseman, LaRoche was the steadying force in a young infield that averaged 26 years of age. While Washington dealt with injuries to third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, shortstop Ian Desmond and catcher Wilson Ramos, LaRoche was the one constant that they could count on.
LaRoche missed most of 2011 with a torn labrum in his left shoulder. Unable to throw and swing the bat, he underwent surgery and missed 119 games. During his absence the Nationals used Michael Morse at first and he had his best season.
Going into 2012, the surgically repaired shoulder was one of the things that Washington kept an eye on in spring training. LaRoche showed no signs of having any problems and began the year in the starting lineup. He remained there and played in 154 of the Nationals 162 games.
What LaRoche did at first was keep things steady no matter who was on the field. When Zimmerman was having trouble with his throws due to a shoulder problem of his own it was LaRoche who fielded his errant tosses. If the ball was high, LaRoche caught it and stayed on the bag. If the throw was low, he picked it out of the dirt or on a hop.
Whenever the middle infielders had to make a throw while going away from first they could trust that LaRoche would get to the ball. Desmond and second baseman Danny Espinosa gained confidence knowing that their mistakes would be rectified by LaRoche’s glove.
A good first baseman is an infielder’s best friend. One that can play ever day and direct the infield is an asset for any manager. Washington manager Davey Johnson knows this from his days of having Keith Hernandez with the New York Mets.
Though catchers are called on to make many strategic moves they usually do not play every day while the first baseman does. With his nine years of experience, LaRoche is the elder statesman of Washington’s team. He is counted on to make sure that everyone knows what to do in every defensive situation.
LaRoche has always been a good glove man so it is kind of hard to believe that this is his first Gold Glove Award. No matter how long it took, it is well deserved.
Adam LaRoche was the best defensive first baseman in baseball by the numbers and on the field.
He deserves every award he gets.