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LaRoche’s early struggles nothing new

May 19, 2011, 4:17 AM EDT

Associated Press file photo
After an 0-for-4 night, Adam LaRoche is now hitting .177, worst in the NL.

NEW YORK — Adam LaRoche has gone through this before. He’s gone through almost every year he’s been in the big leagues. He gets off to an incredibly slow start at the plate, then heats up over the summer and finishes with consistently strong offensive numbers by season’s end.

So the Nationals first baseman tries to tell himself the 2011 version of his early-season slump is no worse than any previous one, and take solace in knowing he will come out of this. He always does.

Yet there’s no one agonizing over LaRoche’s current struggles more than LaRoche himself.

“I feel like I’m close one day and then not the next,” he said Wednesday after going 0-for-4 during the Nationals’ 3-0 loss to the Mets. “And it’s getting pretty frustrating trying to find it.”

The entire Nationals lineup is getting pretty frustrated with its ongoing display of offensive ineptitude. Washington has now been shut out six times in 42 games this season, a once-a-week pace that is tough to
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  1. Anonymous - May 19, 2011 at 4:24 AM

    All the heck that broke loose in New York over Jorge Posada…Posada's batting .179 which is better than LaRoche's .177.

  2. Will - May 19, 2011 at 7:47 AM

    Mark, you ignored the biggest elephant in the room- LaRoche's shoulder. Is it affecting his hitting? I think it has to be, because as we're all well aware of LaRoche's slow starts, they extend to April only. Over his career in May, he improves upon that awful April slash of .202/.303/.385, to .250/.330/.432. This year, LaRoche has regressed in May. He's hitting a shameful .163/.300/.274.He does start slow, but it has never so adversely affected his power numbers. Right how he has an ISO of .095, in every other season it's well above .150 at this point. I think his shoulder is sapping his power, and if that's indeed true, shame on the Nats for making him play through it to the detriment of himself and the rest of the team.

  3. Will - May 19, 2011 at 7:49 AM

    Woops, my apologies. I must have missed the couple lines about his shoulder. Good job, carry on.

  4. JayB - May 19, 2011 at 9:11 AM

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. JayB - May 19, 2011 at 9:26 AM

    Question yet again Mark….is it appropriate that Eck has nothing to say….has he indeed been put "off limits" to media? Are the Nats on par with the rest of baseball on how they are dealing with there hitting problems…."nothing needs to change and everything is fine"….While this is the Riggs/Rizzo standard response to every issue facing this team this one is costing them wins night after night.

  6. dale - May 19, 2011 at 10:05 AM

    Why or why does LaRoche bat no further down in the order than fifth? He has become the ultimate failure with men on base. Riggleman needs to be questioned about the assumption that LaRoche will drive runners in, when all evidence speaks to the contrary. I understand the belief that LaRoche always has had a bad start to season, but to keep him in the heart of the order while knowing that this will take place is just idiotic.

  7. Rabbit - May 19, 2011 at 10:26 AM

    Well Adam, the simple answer about your "ineptitude"…..you're now a National! GO NATS.

  8. masnstinks - May 19, 2011 at 10:56 AM

    There has been a lot of discussions on mlb talk shows about offensive struggles/ excellent pitching this year. Although ours is extreme and right in our faces, we are not the only ones struggling with this. Add to that the statistically accepted fact that our schedule has been mind-blowing and we are without Zim. We have been treading water without actually drowning and staying in close games. It's so painful to watch, though, and everyone is looking for someone to blame or and easy fix. Unfortunately, it's not that simple. Go Nats. Defy the odds!

  9. UNTERP.NAT - May 19, 2011 at 11:03 AM

    Actually the sample of games suggests that what you see is what you get. At the end of the season 20 – 25 shutouts!!! will tell the truth. The Nationals are a sub par team…

  10. mjames - May 19, 2011 at 11:19 AM

    I cringe every time I see Laroche swing. It is a long one handed swing with his back shoulder dipping down. He seems to go off plane every time he swings. I wonder if this is the same swing he has always had. It is a long slow upper cut. I think we will find out at the end of the year that his shoulder was bothering him but he did not want to sit out. Professional sports people are an enigma to me. Why do they think that that a person playing at say 50% to 60% of their ability is better than sitting out and putting someone else in who can play at 100% capacity. It seems that it is a badge of courage if they tough it out. Yes they tough it out but in the meantime they stink. If I am Riggs or Rizzo and if I want to keep Larouche's glove in the lineup I move him down to the 8th spot. If I can live without his glove I manufacture an injury (how about a shoulder injury) and put him on the IR. He goes on rehab to find his swing.This is brutal to watch

  11. UNTERP.NAT - May 19, 2011 at 11:54 AM

    By the way, that sacrifice by Espinosa with Morse on second whether the decision was Riggleman's or Danny's was, stupid. Stupid is as stupid does…

  12. Big Cat - May 19, 2011 at 12:10 PM

    Once again we make an average at best pitcher look like Koufax. When is Eckstein gonna be brought out on the carpet and flogged?

  13. SCNatsFan - May 19, 2011 at 12:24 PM

    I agree big cat… this team can make any journeyman look like a cy young contender. And I think we'll see it a bunch more this season as LaRoche and Morse continue to struggle.

  14. P. Cole - May 19, 2011 at 1:32 PM

    1) It's not early anymore, it's almost Memorial Day2) Fire Rick Eckstein3) Bat LaRoche 8th until he starts hitting4) Cut Matt Stairs and bring up Jesus Flores as a late-inning defensive replacement and pinch-hitter for LaRoche when he comes up w/ runners on base

  15. HHover - May 19, 2011 at 1:35 PM

    I'm less worried about Morse than LaRoche. Morse is starting to come around, at least in BA, tho he still lacks power. LaRoche just looks awful, and I guess I'd quibble a little with Mark's headline–as the body of the story acknowledges, this lousy a start actually is something new for LaRoche. I'm waiting for the story where they send him to another specialist and–surprise!–the shoulder injury turns out to be worse than previously diagnosed, and he misses much/all of the rest of the season.

  16. Constant Reader - May 19, 2011 at 2:29 PM

    A couple of quick thoughts. First, is anyone here going to be the least bit surprised if LaRoche goes on the DL (probably for the season) when it is clear Zim is back and healthy? For all the denials, I've assumed LaRoche is soldiering for us at first producing with his glove with little hope of producing much with his bat. Right now we don't have a legitimate bat/glove combo to have at first other than LaRoche. He's professional enough to take the slings and arrows now and hold out until we get Zim's bat back in the lineup.Mark, we know the Nats deny the shoulder is an issue; do other team's scouts think he is playing hurt?Second, as to the previous story about Wang and Perez, do we have control over either of them for next year? We all envision a world where anywhere between two to four members of our rotation could be traded before the deadline. If those two are on a flight path to replace traded starters in the rotation, aren't we just giving them an opportunity to show they are worth more than a bag of baseballs and increase how much it will cost to keep them. And yes, I realize it is still unlikely either play in the bigs this year, but since they are getting paid by the team, it is worth talking out a plausible plan for them.

  17. Steve M. - May 19, 2011 at 2:40 PM

    I brought this up a few weeks ago about LaRoche and earning your spot in the lineup. If he was moved down to 7th or 8th, I think there would have been some more runs driven in just like last night in that promising 1st inning.I also agree with Big Cat above. Niese had Koufax stats last night. Having a lack of proper execution with men on base like Werth on 3rd and Ramos at 1st in the 1st inning could have blown the game open right there if LaRoche could have kept that bit of momentum going forward. Then Morse on 3rd with 1 out and Hairston pops up with the infield back was poor. The late inning pressure looked promising and fizzled each time.

  18. erocks33 - May 19, 2011 at 2:43 PM

    Maybe they should have LaRoche visit Harper's eye doctor?In reality, I feel for this guy. His start to this season is uncharted territory for him. Yes, he is hurting the club by not contributing at the plate, but he most definitely is helping the club in the field. Simple solution for now is just to move him away from the 4-5-6 portion of the lineup.Personally, I like the idea by some to move him to the 8the spot. Even though he hasn't hit a lick so far, he still has a good eye and is in the NL Top 10 for walks. So maybe dropping him down to #8 will take some of the pressure off of him and allow him a chance to get his timing back. The Nats have to have his glove in there to save some runs defensively.Other alternative … sit him when facing a LHP. Have Nix start in LF (sure, he's not that great facing LHP, but he is swinging a hot bat) and put Morse in at 1st. Morse has slowly improved his hitting (in May his slash line is .409/.409/.636 in 22 ABs), so maybe one day a week we trade defense for offense.

  19. Anonymous - May 19, 2011 at 2:44 PM

    Slow start is different than the worst batting average in major league baseball. The start of the season is the most important, so I would never sign any player who is notorious for slow starts. I would also try hypnosis, voodoo or anything else I could think of to cure a supposedly good player of his slow start problem. I love love love Laroche's glove but its not worth it. I'll take a few errors and even a few more losses to put a professional hitter there. Same goes for our other poistions that are not hitting. Baseball on the Nats level since they are not competing for championships is entertainment. And they are the least entertaining team in league with those bats.

  20. Steve M. - May 19, 2011 at 3:21 PM

    Here's today's lineup:Bernadina, CFDesmond, SSNix, LFWerth, RFLaRoche, 1BEspinosa, 2BRodriguez, CCora, 3BHernandez, PThey move Werth back to 4 and leave LaRoche at 5. Luckily it is a young RH pitcher today so maybe today is the day LaRoche delivers in the clutch.

  21. Anonymous - May 19, 2011 at 11:22 PM

    The title to this article is wrong. This is NEW for Laroche. He's never been close to this bad a quarter way into the season. Why even play him? What other team would keep the batter with the worst average in the league batting 4th or 5th? Really why torture your fan base like that? Let him work it out in extended Spring training then come back when he thinks he's got it back. He's getting paid millions either way so I wouldn't worry about hurting his feelings.

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NL EAST STANDINGS

W L GB
x-WASHINGTON 88 64 --
ATLANTA 76 76 12.0
MIAMI 74 78 14.0
NEW YORK 73 80 15.5
PHILADELPHIA 70 82 18.0
Through Thursday's early games
x-Clinched division title

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FRI: Nats at Marlins, 7:10 p.m.
SAT: Nats at Marlins, 7:10 p.m.
SUN: Nats at Marlins, 1:10 p.m.
MON: OFF
TUE: Mets at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
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