Saturday, July 25, 2009

LaRoche's swing really does fit Fenway

There aren't many lefthanded hitters who can do what Adam LaRoche did in the bottom of the eighth inning on Saturday night. There aren't many lefthanded hitters who can hit a home run over the Green Monster so close to the left-field foul pole, so severely the opposite way.

David Ortiz, of course, can do it.

"All you've got to do is have the swing, that good uppercut swing -- pretty much like mine," said Ortiz, who hit a home run of his own on Saturday night, a three-run shot to straightaway center field in the first inning. "

J.D. Drew can't do it.

"My swing is more detailed to drive the ball off the wall," he said. "Papi has that kind of swing, sort of, that gets under the ball to left field, and Adam has that same inside swing where he gets under that ball. For me, with my swing, it's hard for me to get up and over that wall because I'm hitting line drives off it versus the looping home run."


Well, as he showed on Saturday night, the newest Red Sox acquisition is perfectly capable of taking the ball out the opposite way.

"He's got a bigger, more inside-the-ball swing, so he's going to drive the ball to left field," Drew said. "I know that hurt him in Pittsburgh because it's deep especially to left-center, like 410 (feet) out there. He can drive the ball to left field with the best of them."

Fenway Park already looks like it's going to fit LaRoche far better than either of his two previous home parks:

2004-06: Turner Field
29 home runs -- 4 to left field
It wasn't until LaRoche's second season in Atlanta that he hit his first opposite-field home run at home, a shot just down the left-field line. In 2006, he hit three of his 11 home runs at Turner Field to the opposite field -- including a 423-foot blast off San Francisco's Jamey Wright. It looked as though he'd grown into his power and figured out how to take fastballs on the outside corner over the fence the other way.

( has home-run data that goes back to 2006: Check out this scatter plot of LaRoche's home runs from that season. That's a guy who has power to all fields.)

2007-09: PNC Park
31 home runs -- 0 to left field
His move to PNC Park, though, seemed to rob him of that power. He hit fly balls all over the field -- seriously, go here and select "2007 Season" and "PNC Park" and click "Fly Balls" -- but he could not seem to muscle one out to the opposite field. Just this season -- select "2009 Season" to see for yourself -- he hit a couple of fly balls either to the warning track or approaching the warning track in left field but could not get anything over the fence.

(Check out this scatter plot of LaRoche's home runs from 2008. That's a guy who has lost confidence in his ability to hit for power the other way.)

2009: Fenway Park
1 home run -- 1 to left field
His first home run as a member of the Red Sox hit the light fixture closest to the left-field foul pole, the type of home run righties like Mike Lowell or Devin Youkilis might hit. It was a fastball on the outside corner, and he jumped all over it.

If the Red Sox have their way, he'll hand out souvenir after souvenir to the fans in the Green Monster seats as the second half progresses.

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