Traditionally a significantly better hitter against right-handed pitching, the left-handed hitting LaRoche has really improved against lefties this season.
Not only did he hit .268 against lefties this season, but he also had 11 home runs and an .825 OPS off southpaws in 188 plate appearances. When you factor in the sample size, those are almost identical to the numbers he put up against righties (.273 with 22 home runs and an .864 OPS in in 459 plate appearances).
Back in spring training, manager Davey Johnson brought up the idea of platooning LaRoche, starting him against righties and going with Mark DeRosa at first base against left-handers. That’s a talking point which LaRoche is able to laugh about now.
“Yeah, Davey had thrown that out early, and I let him know early on that wasn’t going to be the case,” LaRoche said with a smile. “And I still make fun of him once in a while about it.”
Boding well for both LaRoche and Bryce Harper is that the Cardinals have decided to go with just one left-handed reliever on their roster for the National League Division Series. That could play a major factor in the late innings, because it will make Cards manager Mike Matheny pick his spots carefully for when he’ll bring on Marc Rzepczynski to face the Nats’ left-handed hitters.
“Hopefully, it’s a big issue for them,” LaRoche said. “That’s the goal is to get into the bullpen. So if we can get in there early and make them make a decision when they want to use him, then they have pretty much got either myself or Bryce. To not have another one backing them up I think can help us out.”