It is now official: The Diamondbacks have signed first baseman Adam LaRoche to a one-year deal with an option for 2011.
LaRoche hits most of his home runs to his pull field, so Chase Field should be a nice fit for his swing. You can see the image at hittrackeronline.com.
Chase Field itself is one of the better hitter's parks in Major League Baseball. Park factors from The Bill James Handbook indicate that it is seven percent easier to hit home runs at Chase Field than a neutral park.
Below are a few reasons why it is such a better hitter's field than say Atlanta or Pittsburgh, where LaRoche used to play home games. Notes taken via this article from azcentral.com in 2006:
"It sits at an elevation of about 1,100 feet, second only to Coors Field. A ball that goes 400 feet at Yankee Stadium, which is near sea level, would go approximately 408 feet at an elevation roughly 1,000 feet higher, according to The Physics of Baseball, a book by Yale University physics professor Robert Adair
"In the 700 regular season games played at Chase Field (data from 2006), teams combined to score an average of 9.27 runs with the roof closed. Open the roof, and the number climbs to 10.44.
"The numbers are nearly as pronounced when the club swings open the panels, the giant window-like sections high up beyond the outfield.
"So why the huge disparity? Experts say temperature and wind could be factors.
"'Roughly speaking, in a 10-degree-warmer temperature, the ball will go three or four feet farther,' Adair said this week."
While it may be easier for LaRoche to hit home runs in Arizona, let's not run out and grab him in the 10th round or anything. LaRoche has always struggled a bit against left-handed pitching (career .251 AVG), which holds his AVG down overall.
He also, for whatever reason, always seems to struggle in the season's first half, as evidence shows: a career .252 AVG with 63 home runs in the first half and a career .300 hitter with 73 home runs in the second half.
At this point in his career LaRoche "is what he is," but even that may make for better numbers in 2010. While struggling to hit for AVG against left-handers last season, LaRoche still hit about one home run every 28 at-bats. That rate is not nearly as good as his power numbers show against righties, but it is close enough to suggest his overall power won't suffer.
If LaRoche can crack a few more home runs in his new home park, he could hold value as a late round corner infielder or a great guy to have on your bench. By no means should owners reach to get him, as he offers little else outside of power, but by no means should we pass him up completely. If I were a betting man, I would bet LaRoche hits closer to 30 home runs than 20 in 2010.
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