What Can Washington Nationals and Fans Expect from Adam LaRoche?
If any player on the 2013 Washington Nationals symbolized the team’s season it was definitely Adam LaRoche. As we know, 2012 was a magical season for both the Nationals and LaRoche. The Nationals went 98-64, won the NL East, set a franchise mark for wins, and also posted their highest win total since their move to Washington from Montreal. LaRoche had a similar year, slashing .271/.343/.510 with 33 home runs and 100 RBI. He set a career-high for home runs, at age 33 no less, as well as posting only his second career 100+ RBI season.
Throughout his career, LaRoche has been the dictionary definition of consistency. He has nine career seasons of at least 20 or more home runs and five career seasons of at least 85+ RBI. This consistency is exactly why it is a wonder that no team has ever given LaRoche more than two years guaranteed on a contract. All LaRoche has ever signed are one-year deals, though he has signed two consecutive two-year pacts, his most recent one with a mutual option for a third year.
That consistency came into major question in 2013, however. Much like the Nationals, who finished 86-76, ten games back of first in the NL East and had an all around disappointing year, LaRoche had a similar down year. In 2013, he slashed a pathetic .237/.332/.403 with 20 home runs and 62 RBI. It was LaRoche’s lowest home run and RBI total since his rookie season, where he played in 110 games and hit 13 home runs with 45 RBI. It was also LaRoche’s lowest slash line since his 2005 season where he slashed .259/.320/.455. All in all, a pretty bad year coming off a career year that saw LaRoche win a 2012 Silver Slugger and his first career Gold Glove as well as finishing sixth in the MVP voting.
After such a down year, what can the Nationals and fans expect from LaRoche in 2014?
Looking at his career numbers, it’s pretty safe to say LaRoche will finish somewhere in the neighborhood of .270/.330/.470 as far as his slash line goes and probably will hit somewhere in the neighborhood of 20-25 home runs with around 75-90 RBI. Of course, it’s probably safe to presume LaRoche will hit lower in the order than he did in years past, both because of his age and because of the emergence of other hitters in the Nationals lineup. I don’t necessarily believe it’s safe to say LaRoche’s career is going to be on a downswing, but it would be unfair to expect him to replicate his 2012 numbers. That was easily one of the better age 33 seasons of recent memory as well as a career year for LaRoche.
I think something like this would be safe to expect from LaRoche: .268/.340/.483 with 24 home runs and 87 RBI. That’s pretty solid for a 34 year old batting fifth-seventh in the Nationals lineup.
Nick Comando is a Washington Nationals writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter (@NickComando), and Google + (Nick Comando)