For the next six games, Adam LaRoche can re-enter his comfort zone.
The White Sox first baseman/designated hitter, who spent 1,472 of his 1,478 games between 2004-2014 in the National League, will see some familiar faces against Cincinnati and Milwaukee over the next five days. It’s a welcome break from the assembly line of unfamiliar pitchers he’s had to learn how to approach in his first true go-around in the American League.
Moving to the American League has forced LaRoche to watch more video than he did during his stops in Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Arizona and Washington.
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“I’ve never been a video guy in the past,” LaRoche said. “I’ve never been one to sit down and study pitchers for whatever reason, it hasn’t really worked for me. But I’ve spent a little more time here and just picking guys’ brains that have maybe faced them a few times, kind of see how they pitch them and what the ball’s doing.”
LaRoche said he’ll study video for a given pitcher’s movement and to get a general idea of what his strengths and weaknesses are — “And that’s about all you can do,” he said. Velocity is difficult to gauge on video, given a 90 mile-per-hour fastball can look like 95 or 85 depending on the release point and how well the pitcher hides the ball, LaRoche explained.
While watching video has become an important part of LaRoche’s preparation, he’s not going over the top with it.
“I caution young guys a lot of spending too much time in the video room because you can cloud your brain for sure,” LaRoche said. “There’s only one way of hit, to be successful hitting, and that’s with a totally free and clear mind. Which is way easier said than done, I can tell you that from experience. But I think there’s such thing as putting too much information in there, when you go up and have too many things going through your mind.”
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Entering Saturday, LaRoche had a .212.330/.341 slash line with three home runs over 100 plate appearances. He’s only played first base in three of his 25 games, though said earlier this year the transition to primarily serving as a designated hitter hasn’t been as difficult as learning the new league.
The video work helps, but ultimately LaRoche said the biggest key to figuring out unfamiliar pitchers is facing them. He’s not using it as an excuse for his sub-optimal early-season stat line, though.
“I can’t use the excuse that it’s new pitchers that I haven’t seen,” LaRoche said. “The dimensions and everything have stayed the same, they still gotta throw it over the plate.
“… But you can watch all the video you want, read the reports or talk to guys all you want. Nothing’s comparable and nothing really represents standing in the box and seeing it live. That’s when you get your best feel for it.”