Let's hope it's a good long look at him, too, even if he struggles at first. At least two months, and probably the whole year unless he really really struggles. I won't mind if Betemit still gets a few starts during the next month or so as well, as I've said before. This is the real third base competition, unlike the bogus Martinez v Valdez v Betemit we threatened to have going for awhile.
Here are LaRoche's minor league stats.
Age -- level -- games -- AVG -- OBP -- SLG
20 -- Rk -- 6 -- 0.211 -- 0.238 -- 0.263
21 -- A -- 65 -- 0.283 -- 0.375 -- 0.525
21 -- A+ -- 62 -- 0.237 -- 0.295 -- 0.434
22 -- A+ -- 63 -- 0.333 -- 0.380 -- 0.651
22 -- AA -- 64 -- 0.273 -- 0.367 -- 0.445
23 -- AA -- 62 -- 0.309 -- 0.419 -- 0.483
23 -- AAA -- 55 -- 0.322 -- 0.400 -- 0.550
24 -- AAA -- 24 -- 0.235 -- 0.309 -- 0.367
The pattern until he hit AAA was that he would be promoted mid-year, struggle a bit at the new level, then stay at that level next year and really mash the ball then. That pattern was oddly reversed for AAA, because he had a great OPS of 0.950 last year and he's been struggling with an OPS of 0.676 this year in hitter friendly Vegas. I guess the standard psychological answer for his struggles this year is that he was disappointed he was still at AAA; this same explanation would also work for James Loney, struggling with a 0.687 OPS in Vegas. I don't really accept that explanation, though. These guys are still trying, right? I think it's important to note that LaRoche's stats this year are in only 24 games. It's a rather small sample size.
What about Loney, though? Doesn't he deserve to be called up more than LaRoche, based on what he did at AAA and the major leauges last year? Probably, but I think it's also clear that LaRoche's time is now. He'll be 24 in August, while Loney is only 22; actually he turns 23 tomorrow. ( Happy Birthday, James! ) LaRoche's time in the minor league oven is done. It's time to see what he can do at the big league level.
I'm hoping LaRoche can have at least a 0.350 OBP. The Dodgers need to get that sort of OBP at least out of every position if they're going to cobble together a league average offense without many home runs. Right now the OBP of catcher, left field, second base, and first base are all fine, though Nomar needs to watch it with his latest slump. The OBP of right field appears to be moving in the right direction, with Kemp maybe getting a deserved call-up if Ethier falters. We just have to hope Furcal repeats his pattern of last year: I think he will, and long term shortstop should be fine. That leaves third base, where we may be seeing the beginning of a solution today, and center field, where there doesn't appear to be a solution beyond the unlikely benching of Pierre or Pierre getting really lucky with his batting average.
Some are noting the dearth of lefties on the bench, especially now that Marlon Anderson is being stashed on the DL to make way for Andy LaRoche. I don't think this matters too much. How big of a problem can it be if we almost never saw Anderson play anyway? He had a 16 plate appearances as a pinch hitter, with 4 hits and 1 walk. I guess ideally we would have more than Betemit as a lefty option off the bench; but I think this has to fall very low on the Dodger list of problems. I have a solution: let's promote Kemp to starting center fielder and use Pierre as our primary lefty off the bench!
Not going to happen, of course. Sigh. Well, at least LaRoche is getting his shot. Let's hope it's a long and fair one.