This morning the Indians signed Andy LaRoche to a minor league contract, adding him to the list of Spring Training invitees that includes Felix Pie, Jose Lopez and Aaron Cunningham. Those other additions may have been exciting, but this one is the jackpot. LaRoche is a career .267 hitter, averaging over 20 home runs per season. Oops, nevermind, that’s his brother Adam LaRoche. Andy LaRoche is a career .226 hitter and has hit just over 20 home runs in his entire 5 year career. He makes Matt LaPorta look like a chump with his .238/.304/.397 line.
There is no question that the Indians would be planning to play LaRoche at first, even though his primary position has been third over the past few seasons. Lonnie Chinsenhall and Jason Kipnis played well enough last year and have enough upside that the Indians shouldn’t be looking to give them any more compition. Last year, Andy played games at every infield spot, so he could also technically take Jack Hannahan‘s tenative spot on the 2012 roster. This seems like a great move to me because LaRoche’s numbers far outshine LaPorta’s. Since LaPorta’s debut in 2009, LaRoche has lower numbers (cumulative and average) in every single statistical catergory when compared to LaPorta. Since, like in golf, the better player always has the lower on base percentage, this is a very good thing for Andy.
The one place LaRoche outshines LaPorta is hitting against left handed pitching (LaRoche vs LHP: .275/.355/.439), a trouble spot (LaPorta vs LHP: .211/.303/.326) for Matt since the beginning of his career. This opens up a situation where the two La’s could platoon at first, with LaPorta taking the majority of the at bats against righties and LaRoche hitting against left-handers. It probably wouldn’t really increase production at first and may send LaPorta into a depression that makes him unfit to play at all, but it would give the Tribe a chance to increase payroll and would give fans a chance to start calling them LaLeft and LaRight. Either way, hopefully this move will lead to us cheering for a LaHero next October.