Adam LaRoche came into the off-season with a higher opinion of himself than what major league GM’s thought of him. After a prolonged time of sitting around and watching other players get signed, LaRoche ultimately settled for a one-year deal with the Diamondbacks at the bargain price of $5 million. So far, that deal is looking like an even better deal than projected, as LaRoche is off to a very good start, hitting for a .401 wOBA.
While we don’t want to get carried away with someone who is hitting in the dry air of Arizona this early, there is a solid reason to believe LaRoche’s step-up is the genuine article. Why is that you ask? Well, LaRoche has become a noticeably more disciplined hitter. His walk rate is up to 15.2%, and that’s backed by a league-low O-Swing% of 10.4%, a stunning 12.2% cut from his O-Swing% from the preceding season. This bodes extremely well for LaRoche. While we should rightfully be wary of sample size stats this early, a study by Russell Carlton shows that a player’s swing percentages become reliable much sooner than other numbers. For swing%, it’s as quickly as 50 plate appearances.
O-Swing% correlates well with walks for the obvious reason that if a player isn’t chasing balls out of the strike zone, naturally he’ll be reaching base more while also taking advantage of better pitches to hit. LaRoche has been doing just that, and now his updated ZiPS projection calls for a .390 wOBA on the season. That’s Ryan Howard production at a Scott Linebrink price.
LaRoche can undoubtedly parlay this type of success into some bigger bankroll if he can keep showing a discriminatory eye at the plate to complement his solid power.