Some of this will be a bit of a rehashing of a post I did earlier this week that was mainly about Adam LaRoche, but much of it is worth repeating. The Braves shocked quite a few people (including LaRcohe) when they re-acquired him at the trade deadline this year, and many people questioned the move, but it worked out pretty well for Atlanta. Here is a comparison of LaRoche's stats with Atlanta and Casey Kotchman's stats with Atlanta:
Quite an improvement, and I don't think it's any coincidence that the Braves made their run after he arrived and our production out of first base elevated to above league average. LaRoche is a key component to our offense. During his time this year with Pittsburgh, Boston, and Atlanta, when LaRoche hit well the team won. His OPS in team victories in 2009 was 1.089 and in team losses it was .595 -- quite a disparity. The biggest difference between wins and losses was his slugging percentage -- twice as good in wins (.655) as in losses (.325). This is much more of a stark difference than we see with Kotchman (.790 OPS in wins, .642 in losses). This split for LaRoche indicates that his power is a game changing commodity.
LaRoche is certainly the kind of first baseman that the Braves need in their lineup. It would be wonderful to call up Freddie Freeman and have him come close to the numbers that LaRoche put up, but let's not rush him and create another Scott Thorman. The Braves need LaRoche back and they should make re-signing him their first priority this off-season. Freeman only turned 20 this year, so if the Braves were to offer LaRoche a three-year deal, the young Freeman would still be young by the time that deal was over. He would be just 23 when he would be expected to become a starter in 2012. By signing LaRoche we don't rush Freeman, giving him ample time to develop, and if someone else comes along in the interim (RSF), then we have tradeable pieces, or we could trade LaRoche if Freeman proves ready in the next two years.
With LaRoche we know what we're going to get. A guy who hits 25 homeruns a year, drives in about 83 runners, hits about .275, gets on base at a .350 clip, and slugs at around the .480 mark. With only minor deviations that what he's done each of the last three years, with the notable exception that he does remarkably better when he's wearing a Braves uniform.
The bottom line is that we should not be afraid to re-sign LaRoche to a multi-year deal. He is not the cleanup hitter we seek, but he is a necessary complimentary piece in the middle of playoff lineup. Building a better offense for next season starts with him.
Coming up tomorrow, the top-5 minor league first basemen in the Braves system, and a first baseman's round table between the bloggers here at Talking Chop.