Stats Geek on LaRoche: PNC not always kind to lefties
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So when a powerful left-handed batter moves to PNC Park, you can safely figure him to slug even more home runs than he did the year before, can't you?
Not on your autographed picture of Jeromy Burnitz.
Two of the most respected purveyors of statistical projections see Adam LaRoche dropping from 32 home runs last year to 24 to 27 this year.
That's not bad. They also tap LaRoche for a slugging average above .500, a good deal better than the 19 home runs and .426 slugging average the Pirates got from first basemen last year. In short, LaRoche should add oomph to a weak lineup, but PNC Park's short right field porch might not help him as much as fans hope.
It's only 320 feet down the right-field line and 375 to right-center in PNC, compared to 330 and 390 in LaRoche's home park last year, Atlanta's Turner Field. But LaRoche is not a dead pull hitter. Of his 11 home runs at home last year, only three were pulled to right field. Five were hit to right-center or center field, two were hit to left-center and one to left field.
LaRoche sprayed doubles all over the field, too, continuing a pattern from the year before. He has become less of a pull hitter as he has matured, and that paid off in a big way for him last year. Unless LaRoche changes his approach in Pittsburgh (which could lead to bad habits) he might lose as many home runs to PNC's deep left-center field as he gains from right field.
That still would mean a very good hitter. What follows are PECOTA projections from Baseball Prospectus (adjusted for more playing time in PNC Park) and the ZiPS Projections from Dan Syzmborski, editor-in-chief of the Baseball Think Factory.
PECOTA also gives LaRoche a 10 percent shot at hitting .313 with 34 home runs and 103 RBIs. That's important to note because sometimes a player blows away even his most optimistic projections. Freddy Sanchez hit a league-leading .344 last year, 68 points above PECOTA's mean forecast.
Other times, PECOTA is scary in its accuracy, as it was for Jack Wilson in 2006, predicting .270/.312/.377. Wilson hit .273/.316/.370.
First Published April 1, 2007 12:00 am