Adam LaRoche: The Nats True Offensive Drain

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From listening to callers into the post-game
show, venturing into message boards and comments sections, and from the
comments of Nats fans on Twitter it could be believed that Danny Espinosa was
to be the offensive star of the Nats and the man that all the run production
hinges on. That isn’t nor was it ever the case. He opened the season batting
seventh and was believed by everyone to be the worst offensive player in a very
good line-up. Espinosa for his career is an above average hitting second
baseman, but second base is not an offensive position, and when it comes to
defense there isn’t a better second baseman in the majors than Danny Espinosa.

While Espinosa’s .174/.219/.348
slash line is bad it isn’t the worst on the Nationals. That belongs to the
.143/.211/.286 slugging first baseman Adam LaRoche. As many like to point out
LaRoche is typically a slow starter, but his current OPS of .506 is worse than
his April 2011 OPS of .615 and LaRoche hasn’t had a month this bad since July
of 2009 when he had a .502 OPS. For the 2009 season LaRoche batted
.277/.355/.488 and there is more than plenty of time for him to turn it around
in 2013, but for right now LaRoche is the worse offensive player on the Nats
especially when his position is taken into account.

So far into 2013 an NL average first base has an OPS of .764 or
.258 points higher than LaRoche. For perspective an NL average second baseman
has an OPS of .670 or, 103 points higher than Danny Espinosa. Espinosa is not a
key cog to the Nationals offense. Adam LaRoche is playing an offensive
position, batting fifth, and not producing. Furthermore the man on the bench
behind LaRoche is Tyler Moore who so far into his major league career
.254/.316/.492 batting line and former first round pick Chris Marrero is off to
a .328/.387/.657 start at AAA Syracuse, and LaRoche’s re-signing is the move
that spelled the end to the Nats tenure of Michael Morse. Combine all these
factors and it seems as if more fan angst should be directed towards Adam
LaRoche.

None of this is to say that LaRoche won’t turn it around or
that the Nats should play someone else at the positions. A few more Tyler Moore
starts with left handers on the mound could be in order, but no player in the
history of baseball has ever broken out of a slump on the bench. LaRoche is the
best option the Nats have at first base, but if the Nats hope to improve on the
3.79 runs a game they have averaged so far this season they are going to need
better production out of first base, and that isn’t the only place. 

Across the diamond at the other corner position the news is just
as bad as the Nationals are getting a .547 OPS from the hot corner, also a
traditional power position. The fix for this one is easy. The Nats need Ryan
Zimmerman to get healthy and play like Ryan Zimmerman. In baseball the best
solution is often patience, and that is what the Nats need when it comes to
their entire infield situation. The only non-catching infielder performing
above league average for the moment is Ian Desmond who has given the Nats an
.811 OPS from the short stop position. It is hard to be patient when the local
nine aren’t scoring, but like all things, good or bad, it will end. The
Nationals corner infielders have too long a track record of being solid, above
average major league contributors to have suddenly lost it, but for
Adam LaRoche he is going to have to turn it around quickly before the ire of
talk radio callers turns from Espinosa to him.