LaRoche Living Up To The Hype

The Piraes trade of Jason Bay has been slow to bear fruit. Three of the four players they received haven’t lived up to expectations – Brandon Moss has played at replacement level all season, Craig Hansen has been injured, and Bryan Morris was terrible and then hurt in A-ball. But, the key player to the deal was Andy LaRoche, and after a rough start to his Pirates career, he’s finally making fans appreciate the deal.

In September, LaRoche is hitting .347/.395/.640 in 82 trips to the plate. The most encouraging part for Pittsburgh fans has to be the power – 12 of his 26 hits have gone for extra bases this month after not having more than seven XBH in any prior month this season. Perhaps just as important, his revival has come after he hit just .188 in July and .205 in August, and looked to be on the verge of playing himself out of a job in 2010.

As a 26-year-old, LaRoche isn’ a kid anymore. He’s not going to keep getting chances bases on his minor league numbers, so a strong final month of the season was exactly what he needed. And, with the hot stretch, he’s raised his overall season line to .260/.335/.408, which makes him a league average hitter for the season.

As a solid defender at third, league average offense is enough to make him a pretty decent player. For the season, we’ve got him valued at +2.5 wins, which would be worth about $11 million on the free market. With an average across-the-board skillset, LaRoche isn’t likely to ever turn into a star, but for where Pittsburgh in his their rebuilding effort, he’s a better fit for the organization than keeping Bay would have been.

It took a while, but the Pirates can finally point to something more than hope for why they made the deal. With a strong finish to the season, LaRoche has given the team reason for optimism going forward, and that’s something that has been missing in Pittsburgh for quite a while.

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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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