LaRoche’s bounceback season just keeps getting better

After last night’s game, Adam LaRoche was asked about the season he’s put together, a season which is setting up to possibly be the strongest of his nine-year big league career from a statistical standpoint.

“I’m not one to brag on myself, so it’s hard for me to say a whole lot about it,” LaRoche said.

Fine, I’ll do the bragging for him.

LaRoche leads all National League first basemen in home runs (32) and RBIs (98) after he slugged a homer and drove in two yesterday afternoon.

With 11 games still remaining this season, he’s already tied a career high in home runs (a mark he set back in 2006 when he was a 26-year-old with the Braves) and is two RBIs shy of his career high in that category.

LaRoche ranks second among NL first basemen in slugging percentage and has a 3.3 WAR according to Fangraphs’ calculations, a total which is fifth-best among major league first basemen.

Not bad for a guy who was considered an afterthought this offseason as rumors swirled about the Nationals and Prince Fielder.

“It’s pretty cool - as far as individual stuff,” LaRoche said. “It’s been a few years ago since I got to 32 (homers), so nice to be able to bounce back even at 32 years old and still be able to do that. So yeah, it’s nice.”

Last season, his first in D.C. after signing a two-year deal with the Nats, was a complete bust for LaRoche. He hurt his shoulder early in the season, hit .172 with a lowly .546 OPS as he tried to play through the pain and then finally succumbed to season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum.

Looking back on that season and the rehab process he needed to go through in the months after surgery, LaRoche admits that a part of him wondered if he’d ever get back to this point again - a point where he’s turning on pitches, giving them a ride and playing at a high level in the major leagues.

“Even in spring training, when you go out there and first time hitting for a while, first time seeing live (pitching) ... it had been missing five months last year so it had been a while,” LaRoche said. “It took a little while form the start of the season to realize, okay, I’m back to pretty close to 100 percent, which is night and day from where I was last year.”

When he is healthy, you pretty much know what you’re going to get from LaRoche: 20-30 home runs, 80-100 RBIs, some of the smoothest fielding work at first base you’ll find in the league and stellar team leadership.

The Nats have gotten all that from LaRoche this season, and given where he’s already at with 11 games still to play and the postseason to follow, they might end up getting even more.

But again, he’s not about to brag.

“It’s been a blast this year with these guys and surrounded by the bats I am in the lineup, hitting in the middle of this order,” LaRoche said. “Those guys in front of me and behind me are obviously a huge part in the pitches I’ve gotten. And the runs I’ve driven in are those guys setting the table for us. So, total team effort.”

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